Books Read: February 2022
A month of a lot of reading, due to me attempting to change some habits and pick up a book rather than a device when I have some moments and am waiting on something. I’m still thinking a lot about Wintering, Laziness Does Not Exist, and 24/6 and trying to formulate thoughts into a post, so we’ll see what happens. In the midst of everything that is so much this month with world events, I’m getting lost in fiction and yoga and meditation for sanity’s sake.
Master Butcher Singing Club
Louise Erdrich is quickly becoming one of my all time favorite novelists, much like Wendell Berry, her ability to write so well about people in a certain place draws me in to her books. And this book is no different. We follow Fidelis as he comes home from World War I in Germany, emmigrates to the US, and sets up a butcher shop in Argus, North Dakota and all that it entails to build a life in a new place. Fidelis and his family’s life intertwines with one particular resident of Argus and the story grows from there. It’s so well told and so beautiful.
The subtitle of this book by Katherine May is The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times and wow, did I love this book. I’d heard May interviewed on On Being (which I talked about in a recent note), but the book goes even deeper into what wintering can mean and be, no matter if you are going through the difficult time during an actual winter or not. The past year I’ve been resting and I’ve definitely been in retreat and this book articulates so well how so much of our culture doesn’t know how to rest and even scoffs at the need for it. I’m hopeful that as we learn from the past two years one of the things we take with us is that rest is valuable and necesssary.
How is it that we can code so carefully the weight of loss, grief, time, and continuity into our children’s books, but forget them so thoroughly ourselves? (loc 649)
Sleeping is my sanity, my luxury, my addiction. (loc 789)
Over and again, we find that winter offers us liminal spaces to inhabit. Yet still we refuse them. The work of the cold season is to learn to welcome them. (loc 925)
Here was yet another liminal space, a crossing point between the mundane and the magical. Winter, it seems, is full of them: fleeting invitations to step out of the ordinary. (loc 1668)
But the works of winter are more intricate than the simple laying in of supplies, which are then run down until the summer replenishes them. Cooped up in our hives, with cold winds blasting at the roof, we are invited into the industry of the dark season, when there is nothing else to do but keep our hands moving. Winter is a time for the quiet arts of making, for knitting and sewing, baking and simmering, repairing and restoring our homes. (loc 2097)
If we don’t allow ourselves the fundamental honesty of our own sadness, then we miss an important cue to adapt. (loc 2380)
We need friends who wince along with our pain, who tolerate our gloom, and who allow us to be weak for a while when we’re finding our feet again. We need people who acknowledge that we can’t always hang on. That sometimes everything breaks. Short of that, we need to perform those functions for ourselves: to give ourselves a break when we need it and to be kind. To find our own grit, in our own time. (loc 2385)
How Beautiful We Were
A beautiful, haunting novel about the way in which an American oil company uses and abuses the people of one village and their quest to find a way to take back their land. Imbolo Mbue uses some unique ways to tell this story which made it a bit harder for me to fully get into, it took time to figure out what was going on, but in the end I loved this novel and finished it saddened and angry about the ways of the world that seems to difficult to change.
24/6: Giving Up Screens One Day a Week to Get More Time, Creativity, and Connection
Confession: I didn’t read this entire book because I’ve already read a lot about the history of the sabbath and I don’t need to be convinced that taking time away from screens and being online is a good idea, so I skimmed through some chapters. That being said, I found several of the concepts that Tiffany Shlain explores really interesting, especially thinking about entrances and exits. I haven’t installed a land line and I’m not turning off my phone every weekend for a day, mostly because I take large chunks of each day away from the world already, but I am thinking about a few of my daily routines differently.
Lazinesss Does Not Exist
If it feels like there is a theme to my non fiction reading this month, well, there definitely is. Devon Price explores the history of the word lazy and then looks at how we use it today to talk about the laziness myth; how it’s used to make us feel like there is always more to be done, we are never good enough, and we shouldn’t trust ourselves or our bodies. The book is filled with personal stories of burnout as well a lot of research into how much people can focus per day and how to live our lives better. My favorite factoid from the book is that most people can only do focused work for about 3 hours a day (this is knowledge work, not manual labor) and so the 40 hour work week is ridiculous and no one is actually working that much.
The Four Agreements
I read this book because so many in the yoga community love it and I did finish it and I have a lot of questions after reading it. The agreements themselves are fine, if a bit generalized: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions, and always do your best. Who wouldn’t want to do those things? But by being so generalized, I’ve found that it makes them harder to put into practice in concrete ways (I found the examples a bit superficial) and I can’t help but wonder if this caters to people looking to feel good. It all felt a bit too pat to me. This fits in very well with how the wellness industry operates these days and if you google for this book or search on Bookshop, woooooow the amount of merchandise and things that go with it is astounding.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue
Addie LaRue wants to escape the life that she feels she’s being forced to live in early 18th Century France. She makes a deal with a dark God in order to live life to its fullest. Of course she doesn’t fully realize the terms of the deal until after and the book is off and running then, we move back and forth between her story from that point and where she currently is in 21st Century New York. I ended up loving this book, but it took a lot of set up to get to the point where I couldn’t put it down.
Rhode Island Red
A fast moving mystery where Nanette is left to figure out what’s going on after someone she meets in passing dies in her apartment. Nanette is a tenor sax player and loves jazz and the story moves so quickly that I finished this in no time flat. I can’t wait to read another in the series.