"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, December 31, 2021

Nonfiction review: A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future


Last year I watched the TV special, A Life on Our Planet hosted by Sir David Attenborough. In the show Attenborough expands on the ideas in his book A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, pointing out all the ways we are killing our planet through our destruction of wild places and lack of biodiversity. Then he gave examples of places making changes that could make a difference if we had enough resolve to see them through.

I was tremendously touched by the show and told everyone I had contact with to watch it.

This year I decided to listen to his audiobook on the same topic, A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future, read by Attenborough himself. I almost couldn't do it. It was so depressing to listen to, at least the first part of three. We are in BIG BIG trouble. Our world is giving us big signs that we have reached the breaking point and if we don't act now we may be witnesses to the end of life as we know it, the end of planet earth being able to sustain life.


I've known it but hearing it from such an expert, such a witness to what life was like compared to what it is now, it was excruciatingly difficult. I just want to continue living in the world of magical thinking where everything ends 'happily ever after.'

After hitting the listener with the bad news, Attenborough spends the next two parts of the book talking about his vision for the future...doable things we can do starting right now to halt the march to our destruction. Since I'm not looking at a print version of the book I can't cite specific examples for you but many of the examples he used are already being done on a small scale. Attenborough explains ways he sees us doing these on a large scale, a scale where a correction is possible.

By the end of the book I felt a bit of hope. In fact, I wanted to send a copy of the book to President Biden and other leaders around the world. We have got to get on this plan NOW. They are the ones who need to work out the action plans.

Now, here is the thing. You need to read to read this book or at least watch the TV show, "A Life on Our Planet." I know this review is discouraging you and now you don't want to do it, but you must. We all must listen to and heed the advice of David Attenborough now.

(This is my last review of 2021. I finished writing it at 9:14 PM PST on 12/31/21, in the nick of time.)


Review and quotes: OLIVE, AGAIN

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Book Beginnings quote:

Friday56 quote (from page 21, last page of preview):

Summary: With Olive, Again we re-meet Olive Kitteridge the cranky but somehow lovable character we met back in 2009 in the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by the same name. Both books are collection of stories set in a fictitious town in Maine. Olive Kitteridge is the main character but in many of the stories she is only a bit player, making at least a small appearance. The two quotes I shared today are good examples. The first story in the book is about Jack Kennison but Olive is on his mind, so much so he even writes her a note at the end of the chapter.

Review: Back in 2009 one of my book clubs read Oliver Kitteridge after it won the Pulitzer Prize. In my memory the majority of our conversation centered around whether we liked Olive or not. She is blunt, opinionated, a busy-body, and abrupt yet she is also capable of great kindnesses and making intuitive comments. In Olive, Again we meet Olive after the death of her husband Harry. She is lonely and yet finds time to visit people in the nursing home and is the only person to continually drop by and visit a woman who thinks she is dying from cancer when none of her good friends even call her. At one point in their conversation Olive confesses that she fears she was unkind to her husband and is trying to be a better person now. Strout seems to really understand people and is able to bring them to life on the pages of her books.

Here's the thing about Strout: Her characters endure some awful stuff — spousal abuse, parental neglect, the affronts of aging (including loss of independence and the need for adult diapers), blistering loneliness — but they're resilient. And if even harshly opinionated Olive can learn that a little compassion can change the picture, so can we. "What is your life like, Betty?" Olive asks a home health aide whose bumper sticker irks her. The question is key; it's the first step toward empathy. Olive, Again poignantly reminds us that empathy, a requirement for love, helps make life "not unhappy." (NPR)

Olive, Again is another book club selection (my other book club this time) and I fear we will once again discuss whether we like Olive or not. That may be open for debate but I don't think there will be any debate as to how we feel about Elizabeth Strout and her writing skills. She is a gem and she creates memorable and very real characters. My recommendation is to start with the original, Olive Kitteridge, before you read Olive, Again.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material. 


Wednesday, December 29, 2021

2021 End-of-the-Year Book Survey

Head Full of Books: 2021 End-of-Year Book Survey

  • Number of books read and completed: 150
  • Number of re-reads: 9
  • Genre you read the most: Literary fiction (50)
  • Number of books started but not finished:  4, but I didn't keep very good records of my DNF books this year.
  • Number of children's books read: 21+
  • Number of poetry books read or reread: 25
  • Number of memoirs and nonfiction books read: 36
  • Number of graphic or illustrated books read, not children's books: 4

Reading Survey:
(Click on book title if you want to read my review of it.)

1. Best books read 1n 2021:
2. Books I thought I'd love, but didn’t:
3. Most surprising (in a good way or bad way) book:
4. Book I “pushed” the most people to read:

5.  Best series:

  •  Best series starter: Magpie Murders (Susan Ryeland #1) by Anthony Horowitz 
  •  Best sequel: N/A
  •  Best series ender: Terciel and Elinor (Old Kingdom #6) by Garth Nix
6. Favorite new author I discovered in 2021:
  •  Maggie O'Farrell
7. Best book from a genre I don’t typically read:
  •  Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu -- though it is literary fiction it is written as a TV script with stage directions, which I usually avoid reading plays and scripts.
 8. Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:
9. Favorite book club selection based on the discussion:
10. Favorite cover of a book read in 2021:
11. Most memorable character of 2021:
12. Most beautifully written book read in the year:
13. Most thought-provoking/ life-changing book of the year:
  • A Life On Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future by David Attenborough

14. Book I've never read UNTIL 2021. Can you believe it? 
15. Favorite passage/quote from a book read in 2021:
  • "Every life has its kernel, its hub, its epicenter, from which everything flows out, to which everything returns. This moment is the absent mother's: the boy, the empty house, the deserted yard, the unheard cry ... It will lie at her very core, for the rest of her life" (Hamnet  p. 9,10).
16. Shortest and longest book read in 2021:
17. Book which shocked me the most:
18. Best audiobooks I listened to in 2021:

19. Favorite Children's, JH, and SH nonfiction books I read for my role as a Cybils Judge
20. Favorite book by an author I’ve previously read
21. Best book I read this past year based SOLELY on a recommendation or peer pressure:
22. Newest fictional crush:
23. Best 2021 debut: 
  •  The only debut novel I read in 2021, to my knowledge, was Mary Jane by Blau. I didn't particularly like that book. One debut book I have on my TBR which I hope to still read is The Liar's Dictionary by Williams.
24. Best world-building/Most vivid setting I read this year:
25. Book which put a smile on my face/was FUN to read:
26. Book which made me cry:

27. Hidden Gem of the Year? There are several:
28. Anything odd about this year's reading list:
  • So many poetry books. I went on a poetry bender in April.
29. Most unique book:
30. Book which made me angry (due to the topic):
31. Favorite poetry or short story collection: 
32. Favorite re-read of the year:
33. Favorite classic book read during the year:
34. Books I didn’t get to in 2021 are now top priorities in 2022
  • Fiction--- Infinite Country by Patricia Engle
  • Nonfiction--- The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go From Here by Hope Jahren
  • YA/Junior/Children's--- Mister Impossible (Dreamer series #2) by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Classic--- Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Poetry/Essays: -- These Precious Days: Essays by Ann Patchett

35. Bookish goals for 2022

  • Complete the tasks set before me as a Cybils book award judge (Jan. 1st to Feb. 14th.)
  • Write reviews for all book club selections.
  • Complete "My One Book" challenge: The Grapes of Wrath by Steinbeck
  • Read two of the five National Book Award winners.
  • Read the Pulitzer Prize winner for literature and finish all the past winners on my list, seven in all, counting the 2022 winner. 
  • Read at least eight classic books on my list.

Blogging survey:

1. Favorite reviews that I wrote in 2021
2. Most popular reviews of the year based on stats:
3. Best discussion/non-review post:
4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?
  •  None. COVID protocols! 😨
5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2021
6. Most challenging thing about blogging or your reading life this year?
  • I was very streaky this year. I'd read a lot but not blog, then I'd have to blog a lot to catch up. If I'd don't write reviews right away I tend to lose interest in writing them at all. At one point I was 10 reviews behind and had to set myself a little personal challenge to catch up. 😒
7. Most popular post this year:
8. Posts I wish got a bit more love:
9. Best bookish discovery (book related sites, book stores, etc.):
  • None.
10.  How did I do on my reading challenges or goals for 2021?
  • Read 100 books this year. (150 books)
  • My Own Personal National Book Award Challenge
  • Read the Pulitzer Prize winner and past winners: 
    •  The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (2021)
    • The Hours by Michael Cunningham (1999)
    • A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011)
    • Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
    • Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (1989)
    • One of Ours by Willa Cather (1923)
  • Read all the 2020 Printz winners, the award book and the honor books. I read 4 of 5.  ✔-
      • Everything Sad Is Untrue (a true story),” by Daniel Nayeri.  
      • Apple (Skin to the Core),” by Eric Gansworth  
      • Dragon Hoops,” created by Gene Luen Yang 
      • Every Body Looking,” by Candice Iloh  
      • We Are Not Free,” by Traci Chee
  • Classics Club Spins and classics club: 6 classics this year.
    • Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Kafka
    • One of Ours by Cather
    • Pride and Prejudice by Austen (reread)
    • Picture of Dorian Gray by Wilde
    • Treasure Island by Stevenson
    • The Painted Veil by Maugham
  • Big Book Summer Challenge. Eight completed
    • 1. End of Watch by Stephen King, 448 pages 
    • 2. The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, 464 pages
    • 3. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee, 400 pages
    • 4. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy, 467 pages 
    • 5. This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger, 465 pages 
    • 6. Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, 496 pages
    • 7. One of Ours by Willa Cather,  459 pages
    • 8. The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, 464 pages 
  •  Audiobook Challenge: My goal=25, I listened to 43+
  • I completed my 'one big reading goal of the year': to read Dune

-Gratefully turning the page over on 2021.