Books Read: July 2022
A month of reading, I ended the month with a couple of different things on the go, but below is strictly what I finished. We traveled to a big city, watched some baseball, and then the heat pushed us inside for the last week or so. But, in these times, some times these regularly monthly posts feel like a triumph in that I made it through, no matter what’s been going on and I read, taking time to think or escape as the case may be given the particular book.
John Le Carré’s final book, finished by his son, Nick Harkaway, after he died in 2020 is probably his most critical book on the service he wrote about his whole life. We follow a man who’s opened a book shop in a tourist town after leaving London for a more peaceful life and he becomes friends with an older, mysterious, man. Of course as Julian and Edward get to know each other it becomes apparent there is more to Edward’s past. At the same time, an aging agent of the service is trying to find out what Edward may be up to. I won’t say much more, but this is an extremely tightly written book, very much in the style you would expect, and I found the fact that it’s critical and seeing some faults in the service to be refreshing.
The Quiet Before: On the Unexpected Origins of Radical Ideas
Gal Beckerman wrote a fascinating book that I ended up tearing through quite quickly. He sets out to look at how ideas are born and how they come to fruition and he does so using the internet as a moment of change. The first part of the book is fascinating, looking at movements in various countries and how they sustained themselves and kept going. The Chartists in England that were seeking the vote for all men, the dissidents in the Soviet Union in the late 1960s that passed writing from person to person, each person typing a copy to pass on, in order to shed light on what the government was doing, and more. These movements took decades to see their work pay off.
In the post internet age Beckerman uses Tahrir Square in the 2010s and the use of the social media to show how the internet may not be the help we think it is. He goes on to talk about many other movements, including how doctors communicated privately during the pandemic to formulate good public messaging and how two different Black Lives Matters groups stepped away from the internet to do the work. The need to be able to communicate privately, to be able to be blunt and debate amongst the group, is important. Social media doesn’t allow for mulling over, thinking through; it’s all about emotion and likes. For anyone interested in organizing and sustaining a movement this would be a great read and it has me thinking about what I can do in this current time.
I read Jane Harper’s first book The Dry and loved it and was pleased to see she has several more out now, and, even better, this book was on the shelf of my local library branch. Kieran is back in his home town with his partner and daughter to help his Mom pack up their house and get ready to move his dad into a care center. While there a murder occurs, unusual for a small town in Tasmania, and it dredges up a terrible day from 12 years before where Kieran’s brother and his brother’s best friend died and a 14 year hold girl disappeared. Harper does such a great job of weaving together the two stories, just as she did in The Dry and whipped through this mystery, surprised by the ending.
As I looked for the previous book at the library, the books on the shelf above it caught my eye and I saw Elizabeth Hand’s novels. I knew the name thanks to a few different people talking about them and decided to pick up the first Cass Neary book. I’m honestly not sure what I think of this book? I finished it, so I enjoyed it enough to do that and wanted to see what happened. But at the same time I found Cass Neary a difficult character who on the one hand annoyed me and on the other fascinated me. This is a dark mystery, Cass travels from New York City to Maine to interview a photographer that greatly influenced her and along the way she falls into a mystery, or at least she thinks there’s something going on and she isn’t wrong.
Zen and the Art of Knitting
Last month I read a novel where knitting helps a woman heal from devastating grief and in the afterword the author listed off a whole bunch of knitting books she read to help with the writing of the novel and I was intrigued. I found a few things used online and this book was one of them. It’s older, published in 2002, but I found a lot of the parts of it fascinating as Bernadette Murphy talks with a lot of different people about knitting and what it means to them. Alongside the knitting stories she shares a simple stitch pattern at the start of each chapter. A quick read, enjoyable, and it’s made me think more about my knitting and crochet and sewing and how they function in my life.
A Stash of One’s Own
I’ve been going down the rabbit hole of reading things related to knitting and this book of essays was interesting. A stash of yarn is something a lot of knitters have and some of them have a very large stash, skeins they’ve picked up because they couldn’t resist but they may not have immediate plans to knit them up into a project. But what I enjoyed most in this book was how many folks defended not having a stash. I’m not a stasher which in my knitting group puts me in a the minority. I have yarn in a bin that is left over from previous projects and this year I’ve been working quite hard to use that up, but I don’t buy yarn until I need it and I buy for a specific project and it was nice to learn that I’m not alone, other knitters do the same thing.