This wasn’t my best month ever for reading. I abandoned some books, including a few I thought (hoped?) I might like. But I did make it through these!
Dreyer’s English, by Benjamin Dreyer
Benjamin Dreyer is the long-time copy chief of Random House. He’s worked with a great number of manuscripts over the years, trying to ensure (not insure) proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. Note my serial comma in that last sentence. This is a (mostly) humorous guide to getting all that right. You have my permission to skim parts (the section on correct spellings of proper nouns drags) but I particularly enjoyed Dreyer’s internal struggle between holding the line on the use of “they” for the singular (instead of “he,” or “he/she,” or alternating, or re-using the person’s name or…) and then having a non-binary colleague who requested “they.” Grammar is fraught stuff.
Lessons from Lucy, by Dave Barry
I’ve read most of humorist Dave Barry’s non-fiction, and so I knew I’d enjoy this too. Barry writes about why his old dog, Lucy, seems so happy, and what he hopes to learn from her as he crosses 70. Parts are ridiculous and laugh-out-loud funny, but the epilogue kind of punched me in the stomach, and NOT for the obvious reason you might guess in a book about a senior pet.
Daily Rituals: Women at Work, by Mason Currey
I know a lot of readers of this blog read Currey’s previous book on the daily rituals of artists in general. After writing that book, Currey made the belated discovery that the vast majority of the people he profiled were men. So this book aims to diversify the record with dozens of vignettes on artists’ daily habits and work styles. My take-away is that it really varies. We all love the tale of the sculptor doing her best work at 2 a.m., but there are also artists who drop their kids off at school, head to the studio, and come home for dinner. This book delves into issues of personal life management in a way that the male-focused book doesn’t as much. I definitely appreciated the vignette of Susan Sontag saying she “warmed” for her son, rather than cooked.
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
This charming children’s story centers on a downed airman who meets a little prince visiting from another planet. The prince tells of his travels, with various insights into human nature gained along the way. Then he disappears as suddenly as he comes. I have a goal to some day read this in the original French. Theoretically that should be possible, what with my umpteen years of high school/college French, and the fact that it’s a children’s book, but given how sad my French always turns out to be when I am in France, we shall see.
K: A History of Baseball in Ten Pitches, by Tyler Kepner
I’m not a baseball fanatic. I make it to a Phillies game once a year or so. But I really enjoyed this book, which documents the ten major kinds of pitches, the physics of each, and the larger-than-life baseball personalities who threw them. I now know why pitchers like scuffed balls (and why opposing teams often demand they get turned in if they bounce much in the dirt at home plate), and how a swift fastball can be good for a young pitcher, but the guys who stick around tend to diversify their rep into slower-yet-trickier material. Also, how you cheat. There has always been a reasonable amount of this in baseball!
You Learn by Living, by Eleanor Roosevelt
A number of readers had suggested I check out Eleanor Roosevelt’s self-help book (she wrote an advice column for years). There’s nothing terribly profound in here, though she addresses that critique in her epilogue with a vignette noting that if anyone followed the top 50 clichés of a culture, they’d have the happiest life ever. In any case, there were some good lines on time and life in general. Also, the next time someone tells me that email has changed everything about how we spend our days, I’ll note Roosevelt’s lament about correspondence dogging her on her travels: “No matter where I go I am followed by the mail. On my return I am swamped for some days and have to spend far more hours at my desk.” Just like folks digging out of email after vacation. People have always felt overwhelmed!
What was on your list this month?
In other news: Please add Juliet’s School of Possibilities to your TBR list! It’s a quick read, but I think it’s a good one 🙂 Ordering information on this page.
Photo: We won this Little Prince basket at the preschool silent auction.