Bookends: March 2016

Like February, March was a lighter reading month for me. I didn’t even manage to finish this month’s SBC selection (The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford) before April 1. I do have some decent excuses, including volunteer work, a family wedding out of state, and my son and I each getting the flu (although being bedridden for two full days actually helped me finish two books that I might not have finished otherwise; I was surprised to find it easier to read than to watch Downton Abbey while I was sick, perhaps because I was at the Spanish Flu episode), but I hope that April proves more read-y for me.

Here’s what I read during March:

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Bookends: February 2016

A strange thing happened this month: Halfway through February I lost interest in reading.

I still crave books. I still get excited about picking them up from the library and adding them to my wish list (and even buying a stack, which I hardly ever do). I just don’t really feel interested in actually reading. I’ve even listened to two audiobooks with my kids (Ice Whale by Jean Craighead George and The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall—I only just now realized they’re by women with homophonous first names) and only rarely tuned in enough to pay attention to be able to say that I’ve “read” them this month.

It could be because I’m super busy doing volunteer stuff or because I’m focusing a lot of attention on healthful living (exercise, nutrition, sleep) or because I’m spending so much time on home repairs/improvements. Or maybe it’s just the ebb and flow of my reading life. Maybe I’ve just got spring fever.

What am I doing besides reading? That is a very good question. I’m really not sure. I know I’m not watching movies/television shows because I’m not interested in those either. My house is clean, so maybe I’ve been housekeeping.

Whatever’s going on, hopefully I’ll feel more like reading in March. I miss enjoying reading.

Here’s what I read during the non-blah half of February:

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Bookends: January 2016

Did you all know it’s February?

Turns out it is, and it has been for nearly five days now. And I totally missed posting my Bookends post for January on February 1!

Part of this is simply losing track of time in the midst of all of the other things I’m doing, but part of it is related specifically to my being consumed with trying to organize my books and tags to make LibraryThing more usable for me. Although I find Goodreads more intuitive to use and more visually attractive than LibraryThing, I’m not keen on the Amazon/Goodreads connection (why must everything I do become a means for promoting someone else’s wealth?). I have a sense that Goodreads is better as a social network for readers while LibraryThing is better for cataloging books, but many people happily use LibraryThing for both. Knowing there are so many people who love LibraryThing, I’m trying to really dig in and see what I can do with it myself.

This digging into my library is rather distracting and is another part of why I lost track of where I was in the calendar and didn’t post my Bookends according to the schedule I devised for myself.

Oh, well. Late > Never. Or so they say.

Here’s what I read during the first month of 2016:

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2015: My Year in Books

In 2015, I read 105 books, consisting of a total of 30,038 pages (I stopped reading two of these books before finishing them; the page total does not account for this).

The average (mean) books read per month was 8.75, and the average (mean) per week was 2.02.

Of these, 75 were fiction (including children’s books), 8 were memoirs, and the remaining 22 were other nonfiction.

I read 3 books from my Cavalcade of Classics list during 2015. To date, I’ve read ~20% of the 89 classics on my list. If I’m going to read all of them by 2017, I’ll need to average nearly 7 classics per month from here on out. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this just isn’t going to happen.

So many of the books I read this year were awesome, but my favorites were probably Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde, and Lila by Marilynne Robinson.

Christmas Gifts

Christmas Gifts

I am currently reading The Histories by Herodotus (not ready to give this one up yet even though I’ve been reading it since March 2015) and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy, which is one of five books my spouse got for me from the library for Christmas. The other four books are Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson, No Time to Lose by Pema Chodron, Bright-Sided by Barbara Ehrenreich, and A Thousand Years of Good Prayers by Yiyun Li. I’ve also got one whole shelf of books I’ve acquired over the years that I hope to finally read and clear out. I vow not to enter any ARC giveaways until this shelf is empty. (And of course, there are those seven classics a month I need to read, and I’m stupidly busy with volunteer work until May, and did I mention that I homeschool my kids? 2016 does not look good for reading. *sigh*)

Below is the book list for 2015, by the month I finished each book. Read More

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stowe seems to have two main goals in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The first is to demonstrate that slavery as an institution is wrong. Buying and selling human beings is abhorrent, and arguments about how well slaves are treated are missing the point.

The other goal seems to be to humanize slaves of African origin, especially for those in the North who might oppose slavery but still retain a feeling of prejudice against people of African origin. In large part, Stowe does this by showing how slaves can act just like white people if they are taught and treated like white people.

She offers this as proof that Black people are just as human as white people are, but this is troublesome because it offers a very narrow scope of behavior. Stowe goes to lengths to show that those slaves who lie or cheat or act brutally are doing so only as products of a system that treats them as subhuman. She offers a similar explanation for the behavior of white people towards slaves: they are products of an abhorrent institution as much as the slaves themselves are. (Of course, the difference is that white people don’t need to prove their humanity through their actions; their humanity is a given no matter how inhumanely they act.) This is a reasonable hypothesis, but the way that Stowe presents it seems to suggest that the goal is for all people in the United States to act the same, or rather, for all people to act white, which is very limiting to people who are not white.  Read More

Bookends: November 2015


November was a whirlwind of a month. I read bits and pieces of multiple books, but only managed to finish the kid books (including an impromptu Lois Lowry marathon two weeks ago). Ah, well.

For December, I’ve committed to spending less time online, so hopefully that will translate into spending more time reading. But then, if I spend so much time reading that I don’t get online at all, how would the world know how much I’ve been reading? It’s a dilemma.

In any event, here’s what little I read in November…

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Bookends: October 2015


Last night, I strapped glow sticks to my wrists and took my kids around the neighborhood begging for candy. Now we have enough sweets to carry us to Easter (and beyond, if I don’t start throwing the candy away piece by piece).

Now it’s November, and I have only a little more than a month until I’m 39. It’s strange: this is the first birthday that’s snuck up on me. I’ve been so comfy being 38, and now all of sudden I have to say farewell to that age. Thirty-nine’s an okay age, though, I think. Thirteen times three and all. All the same, I think I’ll try to really enjoy what’s left of 38.

In any event, here’s what little I read in October…

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Bookends: September 2015

We’ve had an oddly hot September here in southern New England, which seems to be confusing the trees. The maples in our yard are dropping their leaves without even changing colors. With as many years as I spent in California, I’m accustomed to this kind of fall, but if I’m going to have a California autumn, I’d prefer to have a California winter, which I think is unrealistic to expect (at least for a few more decades).

But we’re coming into some cooler, rainier weather that promises to feel more like apple-picking weather, so maybe the leaves will get the hint before the snow falls.

In any event, here are September’s books…

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Bookends: August 2015


As August vacates the premises, and September leaps in to fill the void, I find myself feeling tired. Nothing in particular is tiring me, so I have to assume it’s just the rush of time. Perhaps the whooshing noise as it rushes by is keeping me from sleeping well.

My youngest turned six this month and has a very wiggly tooth. My eldest is nearly as tall as I am and entering that “I don’t know why I’m crying” phase I remember so well from my growing-up despite all of my attempts to forget it. It’s been a month of anniversaries and milestones, cake and martinis, berry-picking and humidity. I’m looking forward to the cool of autumn and trying not to dread the chill of winter. At least the cold weather will give me ample excuse to curl up with a book.

August’s books…

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Bookends: July 2015


Between ordinary busy-ness and re-joining Netflix, not a lot of reading happened this month.

Well, that’s not really true. I read for my class, and I read to my kids, and I listened to kids’ audiobooks, but I got precious few books read from my personal reading list. I expected to be done with Uncle Tom’s Cabin long ago, but it’s been surprisingly challenging, subject-matter-wise. Poor Herodotus got no attention at all in July.

But, it’s August now, so let’s just look at the list and then put the past behind us. Onward!

July’s books…

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