Well, June flew by. Mostly because a new semester started at the end of the month and I had to prepare for that more than usual since it’s a class I haven’t taught on a summer schedule before. Also, because I usually teach Spring instead of Summer term, June is when my summer break begins, not ends, so I was trying in vain to soak up my summer before it was gone. In vain because it still felt squandered and I’m in denial that I’m supposed to go to work and grade and stuff. Miss you already, June.
Books last month:
WJ = read aloud/listened with James
AB = audiobook
RR = re-read
BC = book club
REC = recommended to me
NF = nonfiction
F = fiction
- Code Girls, Liza Mundy: AB, REC, NF
This was a pretty cool look into the roles of the many, many insanely intelligent women that worked as code breakers in WWII. It’s absolutely true that the war would have gone differently without them. This book was full of lots of interesting stories of the lives and tasks of a job that for most of the women was only around as long as the war (crazy) and was surrounded by the highest secrecy. The work they did was astounding (sooo not in my realm of skills) and you should hear how they recruited…so wild. Different times, man.
- Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull: AB, REC, NF
Loved this. If you’re at all a creative person or want to be or are a person in business or management or a person who interacts with people and/or ideas you should absolutely read this. Not only was it cool to hear a lot of the behind-the-scenes info and stories about Pixar and their struggles and successes, but it was also super interesting to hear the reasoning and effects of how their cultivation of creativity is the paramount goal and how that turns into something amazing. It’s definitely a business model that I’ve never seen valued or even conceived. I’d work well in that environment–it would be so energizing.
- Hillbilly Elegy, JD Vance: NF
This was interesting, but I was a little less wowed than I think I thought I’d be. I’m not sure why. I guess because I don’t think being wowed was the point and I seem to have gotten the idea from other readers that it was a wow book. It was really interesting to hear about hillbilly culture since I have no access to it and to hear it explained and loved from the inside is valuable. It definitely is an elegy to that culture and the book showed and provided info on the immediate and lasting repercussions for them and for our larger American society because of its dwindling. I am generally one who prefers to preserve cultures than have them disappear, so in that aspect it was a little hard for me–especially since the culture that’s emerged from that vacuum is so harmful. I also felt the helplessness from and for them to emerge from the negative cycles that now seem to permeate their lives. I’ve heard a few people compare the plights examined in this book to plights of other families or cultures in differently hard situations presented in memoirs and usually one comes out more too-bad or more eye opening or more whatever than the other. That’s a good reminder that pain and struggle aren’t comparisons–there is definitely room within pain for all of us. That’s not the point. Maybe we all are being inundated again and again with so many plights that we’re losing sensitivity? Or we now only respond to sensational pain? And prefer it? By that I mean our cultural preoccupation with dysfunction, as discussed in my quick comments on Educated. Maybe that’s part of what this book is for American readers? I’m not sure. I just have conflicted feelings about dying cultures on lots of levels.
- Mary Poppins, P.L. Travers: AB, F
Listened to this one because I’ve never actually read it and also like a nice dose of kid lit periodically. Of course, after Saving Mr. Banks opened a new perspective on the story that I’d only known from the Disney version, I was intrigued to hear the differences between the two. And there definitely are differences. I like both versions, but I can see why Travers would reject the Disney version. (Which I assume is generally true from the based-on-a-true-story Saving Mr. Banks. By the way, isn’t it wild how much we rely on fictionalized representations of facts/stories/perspectives to represent a reliable presentation of people? It’s always more complicated and probably more boring or more messy to stick with all the real life things, plus they don’t have a clear and neat story arc. Am I just being so snotty today? Possibly. But it doesn’t actually negate the content. Anyway.)
- The Merchant of Venice, William Shakespeare: BC, F/Drama
The only Shakespeare I’ve read before this was Romeo and Juliet in high school and a bit of Julius Caesar (I feel like I remember we didn’t read all of it), so my Shakespeare repertoire has been clearly lacking. I have seen Macbeth and Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew, so there’s that at least. Of course, lots of important themes and ideas, but I especially enjoyed Portia’s suitors and her badass forays into law.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill: RR, WJ, F
Yes, I re-read this after reading it for the first time within the year, and yes, it was just as great the second go-round. James and I hadn’t had a book to read together in a while and I was not ready for another marathon so we chose kid lit and from my shelves he chose this one. And, of course, he loved it too. So there you go. Read it already.
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Erika L. Sanchez: AB, F
Umm this was fine. I wasn’t that into it but I didn’t think it was terrible or anything. It was just kind of something I listened to. Y’know?
- Prodigal Summer, Barbara Kingsolver: F
I. Loved. This. Book. And what a perfect time to read it! This was my last book before my farewell to my full summer and I gulped it down without much breathing. It has been sitting on my shelf for two years, kind of tome-ish, but I was hooked by the first paragraph–which was of course heightened by my reading it on my back porch in the dark heat of a June night. (I stayed out reading until past midnight, which is like hours beyond my bedtime. #thirty) This was a decadent book. I positively feasted upon it. It’s lush, green, raw, solitary yet full of connection. I wanted to be each of the primary women and live lives like they do (at least in some ways). I was stunned by the luck I had in picking this book up at D.I. or Savers or something without having heard of it or knowing what it was about or anything. I firmly believe books are gifts.
And just like that, there goes my summer. Thankfully I still have summer afternoons. For reading and sunning and