Monday, February 15, 2021

Books and Beyond


Although the pandemic created much more work for me than in the years before, it also provided me with many enjoyable hours of reading. I read 55 books in 2020 (both as ebooks and "real" ones), 5 less than in 2019, but I'm not reading for the numbers anyway. However, I do find it interesting to see by the end of the year how much I have read over the past 12 months.

As usual I made a list of all the books I read including my rating system of zero, one or two asteriks. No asterik is for "okay", one is for "really enjoyed it" and two is for "outstanding". If a book is plain horrible or I didn't finish it I make a note about that as well.

 There are a few I want to mention here.

Four books got two stars - "This Tender Land" by William Kent Krueger, "One for the Blackbird, one for the Crow" by Olivia Hawker, "The Splendid and the Vile" by Erik Larson and "Memories of the Drift" by Melissa Payne. The last one was, if I remember correctly, an 'Amazon First Read', therefore I didn't have high expectations. Usually I find the 'First Reads' rather disappointing with a few exceptions - the best 'First Read' I ever read was "The Odds of Loving Grover Cleveland" by Rebekah Crane - and I was plesantly surprised about "Memories of the Drift". I started rooting for the main character and loved all the other characters in the novel as well. There wasn't a single bad character and everybody was there to help the "heroine". I can't tell you more because it would mean to unveil too much, you have to find out yourself.

"The Splendid and the Vile" drew my interest when one of my students talked about it in one of my German conversation classes I offered over the summer. It describes Churchill's first year in office as prime minister 1940/1941 - I learned so much about him - he really was quite a character -, but also about his family and his cabinet. A great read that I recommend to anybody who is interested in British history.

Since the hand knitted items in my shop became in higher demand I had to sit and knit quite a lot, but I finally discovered audiobooks! I tried audiobooks when Amazon offered me a free audiobook for rent - it was "Everything my Mother Taught Me" by Alice Hoffman and I loved it. Then I listened into "One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow" which was on my wishlist anyway. I loved the narration by Jackie Zebrowski and decided to try Audible for free for a couple months. I enjoyed this book so very much. The often rough voice fitted the harsh setting of the novel, but Zebrowski changed her voice for each character - from hard to very soft. It is excellent.

Another audiobook I enjoyed was "The Dutch House" by Ann Patchett, read by Tom Hanks. He narrates very "Tom Hanks like", but I enjoyed that very much as well. Many socks got knit while I was listening to great (and less great) novels. In the end, however, I decided not to subscribe to Audible since I just didn't want to spend the money on it - and I had also started listening to podcasts.

I quickly found the excellent podcasts by the BBC World Service - my favorites were "13 Minutes to the Moon" about Apollo 11 and Apollo 13, and "Fall of the Shah". I also listen regularly to "The Daily", a podcast by the New York Times.

Since I taught a new class at the German School I also had to read for work - in this case "Writing Down the Bone" by Natalie Goldberg. This book gave me good basic ideas how to structure my creative writing class and also for my own growth as someone who loves to write.

I shall not forget the books that took up a lot of my time - books I enjoy over and over again. Every year I buy new ones and go back to the old ones. Of course I'm talking about gardening books.

One of the most interesting ones was "Gaia's Garden" by Toby Hemenway, recommended to me by an online friend in Australia whose gardening climate is similar to ours. This book was quite an eye-opener and I spent considerable time in my garden to implement some of the ideas. Not all of them work, but those that I chose to try out have worked out beautifully.

And in November, I bought this book (on the day it came out, actually), I am still reading and truly enjoying it.

What did you read during the pandemic?


Karen Lakis said...

I also enjoyed This Tender Land - William Kent Krueger is one of my favorite authors (one of many). I just finished Writing Down the Bones. I have The Dutch House on my tbr list - hopefully I’ll get to it soon. I’m making notes of some of your other 2 star reads.

Terra said...

The Splendid and the Vile was my pick for favorite book read in 2020. I am now on a kick of reading about Winston Churchill. I aim to read This Tender Land, since last week I read the brilliant novel Ordinary Grace by that author. I am reading the first in his Cork O'Connor mystery series today. We have some similar tastes in reading. I live in northern California too.

Elephant's Child said...

Thank you.
And how I love seeing Barbara Kingsolver on your bookshelves. Love her work - with the exception of her last novel which I thought was heavy handed.
I agreed with her but thought she was pushing her barrow too hard.

Red Rose Alley said...

Wow, that's a lot of books you read last year, Carola. I think it's great that you enjoy reading so much. I have been wanting to get back to reading, but my eyesight is not the same as when I was younger. A Promised Land sounds like a good one. Writing Down the Bones, Freeing the Writer Within sounds like something I'd like to read. And I think that if we don't worry so much and think so much, we can be more creative in our writing. Keep reading, Carola. We learn many things, and we can pass what we learn to others. Your post title is a really good one. : )


Jeanie said...

What a grand bunch of books! You're yet another who loved "The Splendid and the Vile." I should have added that to my last Amazon buy -- not that I need to add to my stack. It sounds wonderful. But lots of them do. I've never done audio books but I could see where Tom Hanks would be the right narrator for "The Dutch House," which I really enjoyed in paper form. Natalie Goldberg is always good. And the Eleanor Roosevelts look like something I'd like. Well done, my friend!

Michelle said...

I took note of some of your books. I am currently reading, The Best of Me, by David Sedaris. I have been in a funk for a few months and haven't been reading as much :(

Iris Flavia said...

Oh, oh, oh, dangerous post! I still have way too much on my list already.
Last I re-read "Charlotte´s Web" for my Niece (reckon too advanced for a ten-year old) and now re-read "Penguin Bloom".
Dumb. So many new stuff and I re-read!
For my Niece (she hates English at school but I want to change her mind and make her understand how powerful this language is).

Rajani Rehana said...

Beautiful blog

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Carla, I also read The Splendid and the Vile by Erik Larson and enjoyed it even though it was quite lengthy, but not unusual considering the subject. I have read nearly all Larson's works with the exception of the one on the Americans living in Nazi Germany (maybe one day). The Dutch House read by Tom Hanks was enjoyable I agree. Last year I tracked my reading for the first time by listing completed or listened to titles in an online file and was surprised to find the combined ebook and audiobook total was 61. My 2021 total is at 20 so far. I was a huge fan of podcasts until discovering audiobooks were enjoyable when doing mindless tasks like laundry folding, house cleaning or cooking. I can see by your photo that you are a huge Barbara Kingsolver fan.

Magic Love Crow said...

Good for you! This is amazing! I have to admit, I think I'm going to get into audio books. My love is creating my art, but then I feel like I'm missing out on so many amazing books! Big Hugs!

windrock studio said...

Thank you so much for a lovely book blog post, will be checking some of them out. This Tender Land was the first book that came to me from the library after a very long wait and I truly hated for it to end.

Lowcarb team member said...

That certainly is a great list of books you've read.

I was reading an article recently which said that during the pandemic more people have been turning to books ... that's good :)

All the best Jan

Mae Travels said...

Impressive list! As I keep quoting: So many books, so little time!

be safe... mae at