Friday miscellany, plus books read in November 2019

I celebrated my 41st birthday by taking what should be my last plane flight for several months. It was a quick trip in and out of Houston. The weather was a lovely contrast to Philadelphia; when I left Wednesday morning I brushed snow off my car. Houston was 70 degrees! The speech went well, though the trip home made me glad I would not be on any more planes for a while. Only one bathroom on the plane was functional and I have reached the point of pregnancy where this becomes a real issue. We bounced into Philadelphia thanks to the winter wind gusts, though it sounds like my husband’s flight home yesterday might have been worse. The guy two seats down from him got severely air sick. Lovely.

The boxes are arriving fast and furious as we order Christmas presents. I’m trying to be a bit more mindful this year about lists and opening the boxes to know for sure what we have and what we don’t. This weekend features a few festivities: my husband’s office Christmas party (I have a little black maternity dress which will hopefully work with my not-so-little self), and my church choir Christmas concert. I hope to make progress on the Christmas card list too.

In the meantime, a quick round-up of what I read in November. I’m feeling like I’m in a bit of a reading slump, though I did start December by re-reading To the Lighthouse, which is always one of my favorites. My November reads:

Design Mom, by Gabrielle Stanley Blair

As I think about renovating our house, and packing another kid in here, I’ve been interested in books about home design. Blair’s description of how she lives with her six kids (and the photos!) are interesting; my favorite take-away for big families is that it’s fine for bedrooms to be mostly about sleeping, with more effort put into making common spaces workable.

100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write, by Sarah Ruhl

Playwright Sarah Ruhl tackles 100 different topics from theater to parenthood in this book of micro-essays and micro-memoirs. I don’t know that the subject matter was particularly intriguing to me but I do like the format of micro-essays and I have been pondering how to use that in various ways. It seems to work well with current literary attention spans…

Running with Sherman: The Donkey with the Heart of a Hero, by Christopher McDougall

I’ve read McDougall’s book Born to Run multiple times, so after reading an excerpt of this book in Runner’s World, I decided to pick it up. McDougall and his family moved from Philadelphia to Amish country, and while there, he helped rescue a donkey from an animal hoarder. He soon became obsessed with training for a donkey race out in Colorado. There are always hiccups in writing narrative non-fiction; for instance, he trains with a teenage boy suffering from depression and in a perfect narrative arc they’d run the race together. In real life the kid gets injured. Whoops. McDougall also occasionally overplays the drama to make a more compelling read, but in general this is a fun story for anyone who likes books about running.

Packing for Mars, by Mary Roach

Science writer Mary Roach tackles the logistics of humanity in space. Putting human beings who need to breathe, eat, and (yes) go to the bathroom into weightlessness is no small matter. Roach is funny as usual, and is willing to try much in the pursuit of her story.

Having re-read To the Lighthouse, I think I’ll re-read a few other shorter classics and see if this gets me in more of a reading mood… What are you reading these days? Which “book assigned in school” (like To the Lighthouse) do you think makes the most compelling re-reading as an adult?



11 thoughts on “Friday miscellany, plus books read in November 2019

  1. The Portrait of Dorian Gray is a pleasurable short classic. Little Women has a new film version coming out this year. My Antonia is also a nice coming of age read. My daughter decided to read War and Peace this fall and I realized I should probably join her. I’m 80% done and looking forward to some short books after this…

    1. @Calee Lee – whoa on your daughter. That’s pretty ambitious! I should re-read Little Women at some point – I think I was quite young when I read it and I’m pretty sure I missed a lot.

  2. I’m a fan of mysteries so I love re-reading anything by Agatha Christie when I’m in a slump or need a comfort book. I’ve read them all multiple times.

  3. I just started re-reading The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal this morning. I read it a few years back when I was working on changing some habits and I really enjoyed it. Now with New Years coming up and a few other habits I want to work on, I decided to re-read it to hopefully be re-inspired. (Not maybe a light fiction book to perk you up of a slump, but an interesting read nonetheless! Though I suspect you may have read this one already, since it seems it would be in the genre related to your work).

  4. I read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry as an adult and was blown away by it. My 7th grader’s English class recently finished it. The kids were reading on a schedule, but were allowed to read ahead. Some of the kids couldn’t stop reading, and when they got to class, they were eager to discuss it with their classmates. The teacher emailed the parents to ask them to remind the kids not to spoil it for one another!

    1. @Lee- I read Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row, and Travels with Charley and liked them reasonably well as an adult. I have not felt compelled to reread the long stuff like Grapes of Wrath

  5. The Great Gatsby is another great re-read, especially in contemporary society with this generation’s conspicuous consumption, social classes and climbing, how money can sometimes make problems disappear, etc.
    For real comfort/escapism, The Little House on the Prairie series (it wasn’t assigned school reading, but a childhood classic in its own right).

  6. You know what did not hold up as an adult? A Wrinkle in Time. I never read it as a kid but my book club read it earlier this year and we’ll agreed it was not good. I recently re-read The Great Gatsby s d it was much more impactful as an adult.

    1. @Erica – I have heard this from a few people, which is why I have not re-read it. Maybe don’t mess with the magic, right??

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