The Numbers

DATE: 4/29/16

Titles Finished Totals:

  • Books: 964
  • Poetry: 75
  • Short stories: 36

Total for 2016 so far: 53 titles (including Early Review and fun books).

All titles left to go: 4,648

Next count: 5/31/2016


Spark Joy

Kondo, Marie. Spark Joy: an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up. Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 2016.

Reason: title caught my eye.

Confessional: the phrase “tidying up” seems fussy to me, maybe even a little inconsequential. Maybe I’m confusing it with the act of shuffling things around, tucking things away, the superficial appearance of making things neat.

Even though it is a cooking term, I apply “mis en place” to my everyday life. In a chef’s world it means having all the ingredients measured out and ready to be cooked/mixed for the meal. But, in my world it means everything in its place; a place for everything.

The key to taking this book seriously is the promise of joy. You are to believe that you will actually spark joy in your life and “change it forever” by being tidy. There are six fundamental rules of Tidying: 1) commit, 2) imagine a new lifestyle, 3) discard first, 4) tidy by location, 5) follow the right order to tidying. Sounds pretty simple, right?
At first I found Kondo’s direction to be a little hokey: I couldn’t see myself holding an item and testing the spiritual connection to that item. Thanking the item before letting it go. Understanding that “tidying is the art of confronting yourself” (p 15). Hmmm. Not sure how that would work. I have the ability to feel things for inanimate objects so this doesn’t sound like a good plan for me. Case in point, my sister and I tried to abandon a box of horribly dry, outlandishly green and red Christmas cookies in a parking lot. It was Christmas day, our first after the death of our father. Backing out of the parking spot we had to pause for an oncoming car. While waiting, we looked at the cookies and my sister mentioned how “lonely” they looked sitting there…alone… on the pavement. I immediately made her pull back into the spot just so I could collect those damn cookies. Here’s the really sick part. No one knew I kept them…for three years. I saved them because I pitied them. Not because they brought me joy.
Another thing I couldn’t see doing was discarding practical items just because I felt nothing for them. Who uses their fingernails to turn a screw just because the screwdriver didn’t inspire joy? Kondo tried. What about the items you WANT to bring joy but don’t? I have a shirt of my mother’s. It was one of her favorites. And yet, when I look at it, it’s just a shirt.
Anyway, back to Kondo. She writes in a voice that is friendly and encouraging; always urging her reader to keep going.
I have to ask, what is the difference between Kondo’s advice and the old adage, “love it or lose it?”

Author fact: Kondo wrote another book called the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Book trivia: Spark Joy was translated from the Japanese by Cathy Hirano.


Grand Tour

Moore, Tim. the Grand Tour: The European Adventure of a Continental Drifter. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

Reason read: April Fools Day

Tim Moore is a little obnoxious. The best way I found to deal with him is to think of him as another Bill Bryson. Turns out that’s what everyone is supposed to think, thanks to the dust jacket and other review. What makes Moore different from Bryson is that his obnoxiousness is on another level and his humor is much edgier. He’s a bit more condescending and sarcastic, using words like ridiculous, unspectacular and disgusting to describe his surroundings during his adventures. But, that’s not my main gripe with Moore. I want to know more about why he chose to follow Coryate’s journey and what he hoped to get out of it along the way. After all, he wasn’t following Coryate literally. True, Coryate was mostly on foot while Moore was insistent in having the perfect, attention-drawing touring car, a Rolls Royce. True, Coryate didn’t wear a plush purple suit to further draw attention to himself either. According to the dust jacket I was to expect “snorts of laughter” while reading The Grand Tour. Unfortunately, none came for me. A great deal of the time my mind wandered while trying to read Grand Tour.

Weird quotes, “The whole thing was clearly an extended fart analogy” (p 10),”the patron came out to watch me as, wild of hair and damp of arse, I bundled armfuls of wet polyester into the back of the Rolls while his dog peed on my hubcaps” (p 77), and “For every vineyard there was a dark satanic mill – no wonder Soave tastes like that” (p 213).

Author fact: Moore also wrote French Revolutions which I found hysterical.

Book trivia: Surprisingly, Grand Tour has delightful illustrations.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Explaining Europe: The Grand Tour” (p 82).


Green Thoughts

Perenyi, Eleanor. Green Thoughts: a Writer in the Garden. New York: Modern Library, 2002.

Reason read: April is traditionally the time when we New Englanders start thinking about gardens. Edited to add: as of this writing, it is snowing quite heavily…we’re supposed to get up to 6″ and classes are cancelled.

I need to prepare you. There is a lot of foreplay leading up to the main event that is Green Thoughts. There are 24 pages of other “stuff” to get through before you even see the first chapter, “Annuals”: first you need to read the title page, the “Introduction to the modern library gardening series by Michael Pollan”, the “Introductions to the text by Allen Lacy”, table of contents,  the forward, and last but not least, a note on references. But! (dramatic pause…) But, once you get into Green Thoughts it is a delight to finally be there. Each chapter (in alphabetical order) is it’s own separate essays so feel free to jump around to the topics that best interest you. To be fair, some of the gardening instruction is a little labor intensive for the plant it and forget it, barely green-thumbed among us.

One of the best things I learned from reading Green Thoughts is that Cato (of Carthage fame) wrote directions for growing asparagus. That is awesome!

Quotes I liked, “I don’t subscribe to Prevention, which is dedicated to health, mostly because I haven’t the backbone to follow its precepts” (p 44), “A killing frost devastates the heart as well as the garden” (p 69) and one more, “When I look back on the long procession of incompetents, dumbbells and eccentrics, young and old, foreign and domestic, who have worked for me, I wonder how I and the garden have survived their ministrations” (p 80). She answers her own question wit “It occurs to me that I attract the mentally unbalanced” (p 81).

Author fact: Perenyi was at one time the managing editor of one of my teenage guilty pleasures, Mademoiselle Magazine.

Book trivia: You would think this book ripe for photographs, or at least illustrations. Be forewarned. There is not a one of either. Sigh.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Get On With Gardening” (p 96).


Why the Grateful Dead Matter

Benson, Michael. Why the Grateful Dead Matter. New Hampshire: University Press of New England, 2016.

Reason read: Early review for LibraryThing.

I decided to write this review a little differently. Instead of waiting until I had read the entire thing before commenting I decided this time I would write comments as I went. Here’s what happened:

I have to admit, I found some of Benson’s writing a little hokey. When he said, “there’s an app for that” I practically groaned out loud. So, this is how it’s going to be I thought out loud.

The structure of Why the Grateful Dead Matter is a little chaotic. That is to say, there is no real structure to the chapters. Just open the book and read. Doesn’t matter where you start. Doesn’t matter where you end.

This is essentially an argument without hard facts. Don’t expect an authoritarian narrative. No works cited. No in-depth research. It’s as if this book blossomed from a late night debate (possibly fueled by alcohol?); a debate with a friend about why, 50 years later, the Grateful Dead are doing a Farewell Tour. Picture it: the debate turned into Why The Grateful Dead Matter conversation. The reasons why they matter come fast and furious from Benson, political debate style, until someone says, “Man, you should write that s–t down!” And he does.

The chapter on Ripple being so zen is flimsy and without substance. It started off as a strong argument and somehow got off topic at the end. It petered out feebly when one of the last examples of zen is the Grateful Dead playing a benefit for the Zen Center. There is little substance in regards to HOW the music is “zen” and yet, the chapter on the instruments being custom made was well organized and detailed. Benson knows their equipment and knows it well.

This is one for the fans. Read this if you already love the music and just want to share in the common interest. Read this book if you already know why the Grateful Dead matter and you just want to agree, possibly shouting “Exactly! Right on, man!”

As an aside, I just bought my husband the compilation “30 Trips” for his birthday. I’m hoping Trips will contain the versions of songs Benson mentions as outstanding in Why the Grateful Dead Matter. Here is a partial list of the songs I need to find:

  • Wharf Rat 12/31/78 (particularly Jerry Garcia’s guitar solo)
  • China Cat Sunflower 1971 (Bucknell University)

Author fact: Benson is all over with place with his interests. According to the back cover, he writes about music, sports, crime, film, the military, and politics.

Book trivia: the early review copy I received had photographs in it, some I had never seen before. Very cool.


Alice in Sunderland

Talbot, Bryan. Alice in Sunderland. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books,  2007

Reason read: April Fools

One word: savor. Savor this book slowly. It’s only 319 pages but let every page have it’s moment in time. This is a beautiful piece of art, chock full of culture, biography, history, creative use of the English language (“follow your spirit” with a picture of someone chasing a vodka truck), a comic book inside a graphic novel, brimming with literary references (Thirty-Nine Steps and Rugby, the same school made infamous by Tom Brown’s Schooldays, to name a few) and much, much more. This is a comprehensive walk through history with a myriad of people and places leading the way. In Book Lust To Go Nancy Pearl called it “one of the richest experiences of her life (p 68).

The premise is really quite simple. Bryan Talbot has researched his hometown of Sunderland and found every possible parallel connection to Lewis Carroll’s famed The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. It’s brilliant. Read this alongside The Annotated Alice for a healthy dose of all things Wonderland.

Best quote, “All the lives seen tonight…so many lives…” (p 290). Case in point: here’s the ridiculously long list of Who’s Who in Alice in Sunderland. How about a game? How many people do you recognize?:

  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Al Davison
  • Alan Hargreaves
  • Alexandria “Xie” Kitchin
  • Alfred Jarry
  • Alice Liddell
  • Ally Sloper
  • Andy Capp
  • Arthur Racham
  • Arthur Frost
  • Bande Dessinee
  • Beatles
  • Bede
  • Benedict Biscop
  • Benny Hill
  • Beryl Formby
  • Bessie Wilcox
  • Betty Boop
  • Bill Shakespeare
  • Blondin
  • Bobby Thompson
  • Bram Stoker
  • Bryan Ferry
  • Caedmon
  • Capt. Edward Robinson
  • Capt. Joseph Wiggins
  • Capt. William Bligh
  • Caryl Hargreaves
  • Cary Grant
  • Catherine Cookson
  • Charles Dickens
  • Charles Kingsley
  • Charles Lutwidge Dodson
  • Charles Weiss
  • Charlie Chaplin
  • Chaz Brenchley
  • Chster P Hackenbush
  • Chico Marx
  • Chris Mullin
  • Clarkson Stanfield
  • Colin Wilbourn
  • Craig Knowles
  • Dante Gabriel Rossetti
  • Dave Stewart
  • David Malan
  • David McKean
  • Dennis Potter
  • Dick Turpin
  • Disraeli
  • Doctor Who
  • Dorothy Williamson
  • Dracula
  • Duke of Wellington
  • Earl Zetland
  • Earl of Bute
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Edgar Atheling
  • Edith Liddell
  • Edward Bulwer Lytton
  • Edward Burne Jones
  • Edward Hylton
  • Edward Schoeder
  • Edwin Moss
  • Eileen O’Shaughnessy
  • Elizabeth I
  • Elizabeth Liddell
  • Ellen Terry
  • Emily Pankhurs
  • Emperor Claudius
  • Eric Gill
  • Florence Becker Lennon
  • Frank Caws
  • Franz Kafka
  • Frederick Cotton
  • Fredericka Liddell
  • Friar Tuck
  • George “Dubya” Bush
  • George Formby
  • George Hudson
  • George Lightfoot
  • George Lilburne
  • George Orwell
  • George Stephenson
  • George Washington
  • Gerald Frow
  • Gertrude Bell
  • Grace Slick
  • Grant Morrison
  • Harry Furniss
  • Harry Lauder
  • Harry Potter
  • Henry VIII
  • Hedworth Williams, Sr.
  • Henry George Liddell
  • Henry Holiday
  • Henry Hylton
  • Henry Irving
  • Henry Lambton
  • Henry Stanley
  • Houdini
  • Hunt Emerson
  • Ian Watson
  • Irving Berlin
  • Isabella Hazard
  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel
  • Jack Crawford
  • Jack the Ripper
  • James Herriot
  • James Joyce
  • Jan Svankmeyers
  • Jeff Smith
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Joe Nattras
  • John Bunyan
  • John George Lambton
  • John Humble
  • John Lawrence
  • John Lennon
  • John Lilburne
  • John Millais
  • John Paul Jones
  • John Proctor
  • John Ruskin
  • John Tenniel
  • Jonathan Hanker
  • Jonathan Miller
  • Jordan Smith
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Joseph Swan
  • Joseph Wiggins
  • Joshua Wilson
  • Karl Fisher
  • Karl Marx
  • Kate Adie
  • Keanu Reeves
  • Kelly Osbourne
  • Ken Russell
  • Kevin Cadwallender
  • King Athelstan
  • King Charles I
  • King Ecgfrith
  • King George I
  • King Harold
  • King James I
  • Lady Montagu Wortley
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Leo Baxendale
  • Leopold Hargreaves
  • Les Dawson
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Lily Lumley
  • Lizzie Webster
  • Lord Ravensworth
  • Luther Arkwright
  • MacDonald Gill
  • Manfred Mann
  • Manuella Bute Smedley
  • Margaret Thatcher
  • Marie Lloyd
  • Marilyn Manson
  • Marilyn Monroe
  • Mark Lemon
  • Marlene Dietrich
  • Mary Ann Robson Cotton
  • Mary Shelley
  • Mary Wortley
  • Max Ernst
  • Mervyn Peake
  • Michael Bute
  • Michelangelo
  • Mike D’Abo
  • Miles Standish
  • Mother Shipton
  • Mr T
  • Nannie Scott
  • Ned Kelly
  • Neil Gaiman
  • Nellie Melba
  • Nicholas Hawksmoor
  • Odo of Bayeux
  • Olga Lowe
  • Olive Hardy
  • Oliver Goldsmith
  • Oswald Moseley
  • Oswald Stoll
  • Ozzy Osbourne
  • Patrick Lavelle
  • Paul McCartney
  • Peter Camm
  • Peter O’Toole
  • Peter Smart
  • Peter Sutcliffe
  • Prince Leopold
  • Queen Elizabeth II
  • Queen Victoria
  • Ralph Steadman
  • Ravi Shankar
  • Reginald Hargreaves
  • Rev. Charles Collingwood
  • Rev. John Wesley
  • Rev. Robert Gray
  • Rex Hargreaves
  • Rhoda Liddell
  • Richard Nixon
  • Richard Thornton
  • Richard Wallace
  • Rick Griffin
  • Robert Bowes
  • Robert Graves
  • Robert Heinlein
  • Robert Liltburne
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Robin Hood
  • Robinson Duckworth
  • Roger Skelton
  • Roland Wilson
  • Rudolf Toffer
  • Saint Cuthbert
  • Saint Godric
  • Saint Hilda
  • Sally Geeson
  • Salvador Dali
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Sarah Junner Lawrence
  • Sarah Michelle Gellar
  • Scott McCloud
  • Septimus Scott
  • Sheri Holman
  • Sidney James
  • Sir Henry Havelock
  • Sir Humphrey Davy
  • Sir John Lambton
  • Sir John Conyers
  • Sir Walter Scott
  • Sir William of Hylton
  • Stan Laurel
  • Steven Spielberg
  • Stuart Dodgson Collingwood
  • Suzy Varty
  • T Arthur
  • TS Eliot
  • Tennyson
  • Thomas Dixon
  • Thomas Edison
  • Thomas Edward Lawrence
  • Thomas Henry Liddell
  • Thomas Paine
  • Thomas Randall
  • Tom Taylor
  • Tony Blair
  • Tove Jansson
  • Trina Robbins
  • Ulysses S Grant
  • Vesta Tilley
  • Virginia Woolf
  • Vladimir Nabokov
  • WC Fields
  • WH Auden
  • Wee Georgie Woods
  • Whoopi Goldberg
  • Wilkie Collins
  • William Bell Scott
  • William Blake
  • William Clanny
  • William Hogarth
  • William Hylton
  • William Joyce
  • William McGonagall
  • William Mills
  • William Morris
  • William Mowbray
  • William Reid Clanny
  • William the Bastard
  • William the Conqueror
  • William Wilcox
  • Windson McKay
  • Winnie Davies
  • Woody Allen
  • Yehudi Menhin

Fun stuff: Ever wonder why all public doors are supposed to open outward? The answer is in Alice in Sunderland. Did you know there is a missing Alice chapter called Wasp in a Wig? Or that Grace Slick is such a huge fan of Alice that she created a whole series of Wonderland inspired paintings when she retired from music.

Favorite line, “Don’t confuse the genre with the medium” (p 187).

Author fact: Talbot has his own website here.

Book trivia: I know I said it before but this book is an oversized visual treat.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Comics with a Sense of Place” (p 68).


Considerable Town

Fisher, M.F.K. A Considerable Town. New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1978.

Reason read: Dual reasons: April is food month and Fisher is a food writer. Also, does anyone know the song, April in Paris? Need I say more?

The first thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that it is not a travel or guide book. The first time Fisher visited Marseille the year was 1929. She is back again…only it’s 1976 (yes, you read that right). A Considerable Town was published in the same year but is full of observations of a city Fisher had obviously fallen in love with. Reading this in 2016, some sixty years later, felt a little dated and left me wondering how much, or how little, Marseille had changed in all that time. Fisher noted changes between her 1929 and 1976 visits.
The other thing you need to know about A Considerable Town is that Fisher takes you on a journey that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. Her observations of people, places and events bring Marseille alive so much so that she accomplishes the opposite of a tour/guide book. Instead of preparing the reader to visit the region, she makes the reader feel as though he or she has already been there.
Probably the most touching part of A Considerable Town was towards the end when Fisher is trying to make her two young daughters feel at “home” in Marseille at Christmas time. Decorating the tree was especially poignant.

Quotes to quote, “During the market hours there, men sold their catches too, but it was the women who dominated, at least in decibels” (p 67), “Sobriety is a rare and dubious virtue, if that at all, with people under heavy stress like cabbies, cooks, and even politicians” (p 115) and “Every kitchen and winery has its own share of idiots, rascals and wretches” (p 120).

Author fact: Fisher spent some time at the University of Dijon in France.

Book trivia: A Considerable Town and Map of Another Town make up Two Towns in Provence. Don’t be disappointed but there are no pictures of Marseille in A Considerable Town.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Florence and the South of France” (p 187).


Don’t Eat This Book

Spurlock, Morgan. Don’t Eat this Book: Fast Food and the Supersizing of America. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2005.

Reason read: April is National Food Month

If you know anything about Morgan Spurlock you know he is sarcastic, funny and extremely outspoken. I should also mention smart and fearless.When it comes to the evils of fast food Spurlock is all of those things times a hundred. Mention health issues related to morbid obesity and you can practically hear his frustration ooze out in every written word. Spurlock is the man who decided to eat nothing but fast food for thirty days and document his journey. His findings are not earth shattering. They shouldn’t even be surprising and yet they prompted the writing of Don’t Eat This Book. Quite clearly, Spurlock had much more to say on the subject. Within these pages he explores diets around the country, particularly in schools, hospitals and other institutions across the United States. He interviews lawmakers and key decisions makers in an attempt to investigate and reveal the culprits behind our nation’s growing health crisis.

Edited to add: Right after I posted this blog I received an email from LiveStrong with the subject, “What’s REALLY inside McDonald’s chicken McNuggets?” I kid you not.
Eye openers:

  1. At the time of Spurlock’s book he reported McDonald’s had bought Chipotle. What the what?!? Not exactly. McDonald’s initially invested in Chipotle but by 2006 (a year after Don’t Eat This Book was published) they had fully divested itself from the chain. Phew!
  2. You support Philip Morris whenever you buy Altoids, Kraft products, or Milk-Bone dog biscuits, just to name a few.

Author fact: As I mentioned before, Spurlock made a movie which I’m sure you have either seen or at least heard about called “Supersize Me!” – all about what happens when you eat nothing but McDonald’s food for thirty days. He won the Best Director prize at Sundance for his efforts.

Book trivia: There are a lot of “side bar” notes. During the listening of Don’t Eat This Book they sounded like interruptions.

Audio trivia: Spurlock reads his own book.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Guilt-Inducing Books” (p 110).


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