Saturday, December 31, 2022

Favorite books read in 2022

In 2022 I was fortunate to be able to finish 63 books, 41 fiction and 22 nonfiction.  Nine of those books were children's or young adult lit.

That is a total of 17,930 pages.  Here are the books I rated as excellent and as enjoyable:

Excellent Fiction

The Vanishing Half, by Brit Bennett, published 2020.  352 pages.

Meet Me at the Museum, by Anne Youngson.  Published 2018.  277 pages.

A Single Thread, by Tracy Chevalier.  Published 2019.  318 pages.

Excellent Nonfiction

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America, by Clint Smith.  Published 2021.  The text ends at 288 pages.  With endnotes 353 pages.

Winter: Five Windows on the Season (The CBC Massey Lectures Book 2011), by Adam Gopnik.  219 pages of main text.  Total 274 pages. 

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee:  Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer.  Published 2019.   455 pages (text); 512 pages including endnotes.

And some others I enjoyed quite a lot:

Essays of E.B. White, by E.B. White, published 1977 (essays were first published in various publications from 1934 through 1977).   346 pages.

The Three Escapes of Hannah Arendt: A Tyranny of Truth, by Ken Krimstein.  A graphic biography. Published 2018.  233 pages. 

Joy in the Morning, by P.G. Wodehouse.  Published 1946. 229 pages.

Miss Buncle Married, by D.E. Stevenson.  Published 1936, 352 pages.

The Thursday Murder Club By Richard Osman. Published 2020. 355 pages.


The Marble Staircase, by Elizabeth Fair.  Written 1950s?, published 2022.  210 pages.


Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. Published 1891.  256 pages.


The Maid, by Nita Prose.  Published 2022.  280 pages.

The Christmas Train, by David Baldacci.  Published 2002. 273 pages.

Some second readings

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.  Published 1813. 

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich.  464 pages.  © 2020.  (Pulitzer prize winner).  

Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah.  Published 2016.  289 pages.

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, originally published 1843. 

Some of my reading stats, from

StoryGraph says that I have read 65 books, but maybe it is counting books I entered but didn’t finish.  StoryGraph seems to count as “classic” any book written before roughly 1950.  Okay. 

My top five genres for 2022 were “classics”, literary, historical, mystery, and history.  The only reason I read two thrillers is because of book club.

Creepily, the Washington Post also informed me that I had read 13,218 of their pages in 4,903 articles. I am pretty sure I did not read that many articles, although I might have clicked on that many articles.

First Lines: December 2022 edition

 First Lines: December 2022 edition


Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in December. 



Book 1

On an evening in the latter part of May a middle-aged man was walking homeward from Shaston to the village of Marlott, in the adjoining Vale of Blakemore, or Blackmoor.



Book 2

Dypaloh.  There was a house made of dawn.  It was made of pollen and of rain, and the land was very old and everlasting.  There were many colors on the hills, and the plain was bright with different-colored clays and sands.



Book 3

I am your maid.  I’m the one who cleans your hotel room, who enters like a phantom when you’re out gallivanting for the day, no care at all about what you’ve left behind, the mess, or what I might see when you’re gone.


Book 4

On October 31, 2022, in a Federal courthouse in Washington, DC, Graydon Young testified against Stewart Rhodes and other members of the Oath Keepers militia group.


Book 5

This book tells the story of what Indians in the United States have been up to in the 128 years that have elapsed since the 1890 massacre of at least 150 Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota: what we’ve don't, what’s happened to us, what our lives have been like.  It is adamantly, unashamedly, about Indian life rather than Indian death.  That we even have lives – that Indians have been living in, have been shaped by, and in turn have shaped the modern world – is news to most people. 


Book 6

Stave I – Marley’s Ghost

Marley was dead: to begin with. 


Book 7 

It was only November sixth but Chicago had just been hit with its second big blizzard of the season, and Mr. Oswald T. Campbell guessed he had stepped in every ice-cold ankle-deep puddle of dirty white slush it was possible to step in, trying to get to his appointment.

The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

Tess of the D’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy. Published 1891.  256 pages.

My younger daughter has advised me for several years to read this book.  I finally found the time, and do not regret it.  I was reluctant to take up this tragedy, because, well, tragedy, but the tragedy was different than what I had imagined.  I loved reading Thomas Hardy’s The Return of the Native in high school, and Far From the Madding Crowd on my own.  In Tess, I was particularly fascinated with his descriptions of the hardship labor required by agriculture at the end of the 19th Century.


This book contains a wagonload of foreshadowing.  Birds seem to be an omen.  I can’t recall a single positive portrayal of a man; all the male characters are jagoffs of one sort or another.


Book 2

House Made of Dawn by M. Scott Momaday.  First published in 1968.  212 pages.

Takes place in New Mexico and Los Angeles.  A heart-breaking story, with stunning descriptions of locale and indigenous culture, although it was often hard for me to tell which character was “on stage” at any given moment.  Colors feature prominently.


Wikipedia:  House Made of Dawn is a 1968 novel by N. Scott Momaday, widely credited as leading the way for the breakthrough of Native American literature into the mainstream. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1969, and has also been noted for its significance in Native American anthropology.


Book 3

The Maid, by Nita Prose.  Published 2022.  280 pages.

A murder mystery with interesting characters, a twisting plot, and a satisfying ending.    My husband keeps quoting from this book, so I think that means he enjoyed it.  I read it for book club #1. The discussion has yet to take place so I don’t know if the others liked it.



Book 4

Introductory Material to the Final Report of the Select Committee, by the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, Published Dec 19, 2022.  104 pages without footnotes; 154 pages total.

Infuriating all over again.  I don’t plan to read the full report but might read the transcripts, unless they disappear by the time I get to them.   


Book 5

The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee:  Native America from 1890 to the Present, by David Treuer.  Published 2019.   455 pages (text); 512 pages including endnotes.


This book is a combination of much-needed history lessons, in-depth portrayals of interesting people, and the author’s own reflections.   These varied approaches all help fill in the vast gaps in my knowledge about US policies toward Native Americans, and the consequences of those policies.  



Book 6

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, originally published 1843.  Audiobook read by Simon Prebble, released 2007.  3 hours 9 minutes.  (64 pages in the printed version)


Having recently watched two movie versions (the Jim Carrey version and the Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine), I wanted to find out if the Christmas-Eve skating scene and other tidbits were in the original.  Simon Prebble gives this audio book a delightful rendition.  While both movies are quite good, nothing matches the Dickens Carol itself.  The skating scene is only part of one sentence, with Bob Cratchit’s glee implied.  There’s also a bit in Stave III where Scrooge seems to criticize the Spirit of Christmas Present for blue laws requiring the closing of businesses on Sunday.


Well done, Charles Dickens and Simon Prebble, and God bless us, every one.  


Book 7

A Redbird Christmas, by Fannie Flagg.  Published 2004. 200 pages.  This is a book that has recipes at the end.  An enjoyable light read.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

First Lines: November 2022 edition

 Below are the first lines of the books I finished reading in November. 



Book 1

On a very wet day at the end of summer Charlotte Moley came to Nything to say good bye to a friend and to look at a legacy which she had not expected to receive. 



Book 2

The word of the Lord that came to Hosea son of Beeri during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, and during the reign of Jeroboam son of Jehoash king of Israel:

When the Lord began to speak through Hosea, the Lord said to him, “Go, marry a promiscuous woman and have children with her, for like an adulterous wife this land is guilty of unfaithfulness to the Lord.”



Book 3

Staying alive is a lot of work for a disabled person in an ableist society, and that work has been a big part of my forty-six years on this planet.



Book 4

The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie.


Book 5

One: Romantic Winter: The Season in Sight

I recall my first snowstorm as though it were yesterday, though it was, as it happens, November 12, 1968.   The snow began to fall just after three o’clock.



Did not finish

The leather-bound volume was nothing remarkable.  To an ordinary historian, it would have looked no different from hundreds of other manuscripts in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, ancient and worn.



The titles and authors revealed:



Book 1

 The Marble Staircase, by Elizabeth Fair.  Written 1950s?, published 2022.  210 pages.

Part of the “Furrowed Middlebrow” collection published by Dean Street Press, this particular book has slightly sharper edges and deeper dives than I expected. It still qualifies as “cozy lit” but it was just that much more interesting.  It’s a portrayal of Charlotte, a woman who comes to maturity in the presence of domineering women, including her own mother and the outré mother figure Mrs. Gamalion.  Charlotte’s own daughter is on a path to become just like her grandmother (Charlotte’s mother).  It’s also a portrayal of a house and its effect on Charlotte.  This is also one of several novels I have read which involve stodgy English people sojourning in Italy.  I have never read a novel in which Italians sojourn in stodgy England.  Are there any?


This novel was written in the late 1950s or early 1960 but was not published then.  The internet says that the author’s heirs found the manuscript and had it published in 2022.  In my kindle version there were a few annoying typos, such as a sudden renaming of a main character, that threw me off a bit, but otherwise it was a surprisingly good read.



Book 2

Hosea (the Bible).  Dated to 760-720 BCE.  14 pages.

God loves God’s people, despite the people being unfaithful.  Also, God’s gonna punish the people, rip them to shreds.  Also, God loves the people.  Metaphors include prostitute, bread, and vine.  This book is where the phrase “reap the whirlwind” comes from.  Also includes “sacred raisin cakes.”  It was a surprise to me to discover that raisin cakes could be sacred.  No recipe was included. 


Book 3

Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century.  Edited by Alice Wong.

A collection of essays from various authors.  275 pages of text.  With notes: 308 pages.  Published 2020.

This book was part of my self-assigned reading material to better educate myself on the lives of disabled people.  I found it to be eye-opening, but I still have a lot more to learn.



Book 4

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Y.A. lit. Published 2016.  306 pages. 

John Newbery Medal.

For Y.A. lit, this became a bit of a page-turner near the end.  A fairly unhappy ending for children’s lit, but I enjoyed the characters and plot..


Book 5

Winter: Five Windows on the Season (The CBC Massey Lectures Book 2011), by Adam Gopnik.  219 pages of main text.  Total 274 pages. 

For book club. Beautiful writing. This book makes me thankful for this and all Canadian writers.


Did not finish

A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness.  Published 2011.  592 pages.

For book club.

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Thanksgiving Survey 2022: Water - Responses

 Thanksgiving survey: Water - Responses

The family mentioned the Nile River, the Dead Sea, and the human body several times.

Question 1.

Name a body of water (of any size) for which you are thankful.


A.  The Quabbin Reservoir.

B. Rocky River because it provides beautiful scenery in our metroparks and I have walked there many times. 

C. The water in my 32 oz emotional support water bottle 

D. Done

E. I am very thankful for small droplets of water 1 micron in volume, as they are the average volume of a cell and are thus very central to my work.

F. The water in the kettle from which I make my tea.

G. My own body, which is mostly water.

H. I am thankful for the clean water that comes out of my tap, and for clean filtered water that comes out of my refrigerator.   I am thankful for all the bodies of water on the planet that are still capable of supporting life.

I. The C&O canal

J. [Family member], who is 70% water.

K.  [Redacted] Lagoon in Belize

L.  The White River (good for jumping in)

Question 2.

Name a famous body of water, and why it is significant.


A.  The Okefenokee Swamp, in southern Georgia.

Because this is where Pogo famously uttered his anti-pollution motto, “We have met the enemy and he is us”.

B. Sea of Tranquility, which is where astronauts landed on the moon.

C. De Nile, because it’s not just a river

D. All famous bodies of water I know of already have names.

E. The Hamza river is really cool, even if it’s not as famous as the Amazon river, because it’s bigger than the Amazon and all underground! It even flows underneath the Amazon, 4 km down! If we could get down there, think of all the dinosaurs we could find!

F. The Dead Sea.  Also called the Sea of Death (Yām HaMāvet ים המוות),  The Sea of Salt (Yām HaMelaḥ ים המלח),  and the Sea of Lot (Birket Lut بحر لوط).   Swimming in it is a singular experience.  Once you have gone in it, you will not ever need to nor want to do that again.

G. The Nile River, significant for being the center of one of the world's oldest civilizations, as well as the first stage of grief.

H. The Nile river because it enabled one civilization to flourish. The Red Sea because it has fish and whales and is part of our origin story as Jews.

The Pacific, because it contains the islands of Hawaii.

I.   A man, a plan, a canal: Panama!

J. The Dead Sea in Israel, because I got to go float in it, and that was pretty cool.

K. Sargasso Sea. It introduced me to Jane Eyre.

L. Crater Lake in Oregon is significantly deep.

Family members:  mostly water,
especially the younger ones