It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

What I Read Last Week:

  • Courting the Countess by Jenny Frame – Read Harder task 14 (A romance starring a single parent)
  • The Time Machine by H.G. Wells – Back to the Classics 6 (Genre Classic), Victorian Reading Challenge (January: Journeys & Travels), Classics Club, Read Harder task 17 (Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novella)
  • Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus

What I’m Reading Now:

What I’m Reading Next:

Down the TBR Hole #20

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Published: January 11, 2005
On TBR Since: March 30, 2013

I think I’m one of about 10 people on the planet who haven’t read this book yet.

Stay or Go: Stay

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely
Published: February 19, 2008
On TBR Since: March 30, 2013

See Blink, above.

Stay or Go: Stay

Confronting the Classics: Traditions, Adventures, and Innovations by Mary Beard
Published: March 1, 2013
On TBR Since: April 1, 2013

That’s quite a cover, isn’t it? From the reviews, this is really a collection of Beard’s published reviews, which isn’t quite what I’m looking for.

Stay or Go: Go

The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible by Simon Winchester
Published: October 15, 2013
On TBR Since: April 1, 2013

Winchester stays.

Stay or Go: Stay

A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley by Neal Thompson
Published: May 7, 2013
On TBR Since: April 3, 2013

I remember being endlessly fascinated by Ripley’s show as a kid.

Stay or Go: Stay

True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart by Tara Brach
Published: January 22, 2013
On TBR Since: April 3, 2013

I really should read this sooner than later.

Stay or Go: Stay

Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America by Wenonah Hauter
Published: January 1, 2012
On TBR Since: April 3, 2013

Still interested in the topic, but not so much this book.

Stay or Go: Go

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books by Paul Collins
Published: 2003
On TBR Since: April 3, 2013

I’ll get around to this one eventually.

Stay or Go: Stay

Kings of the Road: How Frank Shorter, Bill Rodgers, and Alberto Salazar Made Running Go Boom by Cameron Stracher
Published: January 1, 2013
On TBR Since: April 15, 2013

Another one where the topic is still interesting, but this particular book doesn’t sound like one for me.

Stay or Go: Go

The Atlas of New Librarianship by R. David Lankes Published: April 4, 2011
On TBR Since: April 28, 2013

Is it still new librarianship?

Stay or Go: Go

Six to stay, four to go. Ending last week: 1827 . Beginning this week: 1838. Ending this week: 1834.

One of these weeks, I’ll remove more books than I add. Visit my to-read shelf to see how very far I still have to go!

Book Beginnings: Basil of Baker Street

Please join me every Friday to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Please remember to include the title of the book and the author’s name.

Gillion @ Rose City Reader

The mystery of the missing twins could never have been solved by an ordinary detective.

Chapter 1: “Basil, the Super Sleuth”

This week, I’m reading the Basil series of books by Eve Titus, beginning with Basil of Baker Street. The flap copy about this “Sherlock Holmes of the Mouse World” says:

Meet Basil, mouse sleuth extraordinaire. He lives in the cellar of Sherlock Holmes’s house, where he studies at the feet of the great detective himself.

In 1986, Disney released The Great Mouse Detective, featuring Basil and his companion, Dr. David Q. Dawson. Hence the rebranding on the cover of my 2016 edition of the book.

The mystery in the book is different from the movie, as well. In the book, Basil is hired by Mr. and Mrs. Proudfoot to find their missing twin daughters, Angela and Agatha. The back cover copy is the ransom note:

Baker Street Mice — Beware!
So far the twins are safe. They’ll stay that way if you do what we say. We’ve decided to make your Baker Street cellar the headquarters for our gang. Everybody must be out in 48 hours. It’s Basil’s job to move you all out, just the way he moved you in. Better make it fast! And leave the furniture — we need it.
This is the only warning you’ll get. And listen — if you don’t follow our orders, you’ll never set eyes on those twins again!
THE TERRIBLE THREE

I’m looking forward to finishing this and the sequels, which are currently stacked up on my desk. What are you reading this week?

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

Song for a Whale

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Grandpa told a story, I saw it as clearly as if it were happening right there in front of me. His signing hands showed me the whale in an ocean that suddenly went quiet, swimming over there, over there, over there, trying to find the sounds again. Maybe that was why she’d been there on our Gulf of Mexico beach instead of in deep ocean waters where she belonged. Sei whales didn’t swim so close to shore. Only her, on that day.

Iris was named for the whale that beached itself on the day she was born, at her grandmother’s request. After second grade, her family moved to Houston, only able to visit her beloved grandparents once a year. Now 12, Iris misses her grandparents more than ever; after her grandfather passed away, her grandmother lost her spark and spends listless days in a senior housing complex. In her free time, Iris repairs radios that she gets from the junkyard, bringing abandoned antiques back to life. The vibrations from the speakers tell her when her work has been successful. Like her maternal grandparents, Iris was born Deaf.

School has been especially difficult since the move. The only Deaf student in her school, Iris relies on an adult interpreter who accompanies her to classes. He does not come to the cafeteria with her for lunch, leaving her alone to deal with well-meaning but uncomprehending fellow students.

She learns about Blue 55 in Science class. A whale who sings at 55 hertz, much higher than the usual range for whales, he sings into the ocean, but no one understands his song, and he cannot understand anyone else. Iris hatches a plan to record a song for Blue 55 to let him know that he’s not alone in the wide world. Now she just has to find a way to get it to him.

This is a lovely and poignant novel about the loneliness that so many of us feel. There are so many ways to communicate, which is shown so beautifully throughout the book. The desire to reach out and connect with another, to know that one is not alone, underscores the entire story. What tween (or person who has been a tween) has not had trouble understanding and making oneself understood by classmates, friends, and family from time to time?

Kelly is a long-time ASL interpreter, and her respect for Deaf culture shines through. For Iris, hearing or not hearing is not the problem. Her Deafness is just part of her, like hair color or eye color. It’s other people who are flustered or confused by it.

An Author’s Note at the end explains some of the mechanics of whale communication and the story of 52-Blue, also called the Loneliest Whale in the World, on whom Blue 55 is based. A second note on Deafness and Sign Language gives more information about Deaf culture, the development of ASL, and why Kelly made particular narrative choices. Finally, there is an illustration of the ASL for “Song for a Whale”.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges: Read Harder 2020 (#21: A book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non))

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever-growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date.

What I Read Last Week:

Book cover of Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
  • Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly – Read Harder task 21 (A book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non))

What I’m Reading Now:

  • Courting the Countess by Jenny Frame – Read Harder task 14 (A romance starring a single parent)
  • Henry VI by William Shakespeare (Not the edition shown, but it’s a nice cover) – Shakespeare 2020 Project
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Charles & Mary Lamb – Georgian Reading Challenge, Classics Club

What I’m Reading Next:

Down the TBR Hole #19

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!
Book cover showing a small airplane flying over a deserted beach

Globetrotter Diaries: Tales, Tips and Tactics for Traveling the 7 Continents by Michael Clinton
Published:  February 16, 2013
On TBR Since:  February 16, 2013

As much as I love both travelling and reading about travelling, I’m not entirely sure why this was even on here.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover showing an illustration of an open human mouth

Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal by Mary Roach 
Published:  January 4, 2013
On TBR Since:  February 27, 2013

Mary Roach is another automatic stay for me. Her writing is just so much fun.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover with blue ichthys with feet and the words "The Happy Atheist"

The Happy Atheist by P.Z. Myers
Published:  January 1, 2013
On TBR Since:  March 9, 2013

I kind of love the cover, but I think I can skip the book.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover

O My America!: Six Women and Their Second Acts in a New World by Sara Wheeler
Published:  January 1, 2013
On TBR Since:  March 9, 2013

Now this is a travel book I definitely still want to read.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover

Gates of Excellence: On Reading and Writing Books for Children by Katherine Paterson
Published:  1981
On TBR Since:  March 18, 2013

This is a collection of essays and articles that falls into Professional Reading.

Book cover with orange background and a dandelion in the base of a light bulb

Stay or Go: Stay

Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger
Published:  March 1, 2013
On TBR Since:  March 22, 2013

This is one of a number of business books that will start appearing in the TBR. Letting it go.

Stay or Go: Go

Book cover

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss
Published: February 26, 2013
On TBR Since: March 22, 2013

I am really torn on this one. I suspect it’s going to make me really mad. But I’ll keep it on for the moment.

Book cover

Stay or Go: Stay

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo
Published: February 01, 2013
On TBR Since: March 22, 2013

I have absolutely no recollection of ever hearing about this book. But it sounds fascinating.

Stay or Go: Stay

Book cover

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Published: 2008
On TBR Since: March 30, 2013

Yeah, I’m going to read it. Eventually.

Book cover with the word "DRiVE" in red text

Stay or Go: Stay

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink  
Published: December 29, 2009
On TBR Since: March 30, 2013

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Pink’s work. This still sounds good.

Stay or Go: Stay

Seven to stay, 3 to go. Ending last week: 1807. Beginning this week: 1830. (That’s a subject for another post.) Ending this week: 1827.

Visit my to-read shelf to see how very far I still have to go!

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Shakespeare 2020

Two weeks ago or so, the Shakespeare 2020 Project came across my social media feeds. It’s been a long time since I read any Shakespeare – not since some really excellent college classes, I think. In fact, it’s even been years since I donated/sold off the various volumes I acquired for said classes.

But y’all know how I love a self-imposed challenge. And I’ve still got Lamb’s Tales on my Classics Club list. (Although, oddly, no Shakespeare on that list.) Of course, I’m already two plays behind. I’ll get caught up on Henry VI before we all move on from part III, and I’m planning to go back and revisit Twelfth Night in December.

Yesterday, I took a bag of books to my local used bookshop to sell (they bought about half of them). Between that and a gift certificate from Christmas, I was able to pick up this lovely three-volume annotated complete works from the 1970s, in its somewhat battered slipcase. They’re not exactly portable, so I’ll be doing most of my reading from them at my desk, but I’m awfully pleased with the purchase.

Are you in for Shakespeare 2020?

Spinning by Tillie Walden

Spinning

Spinning by Tillie Walden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Every rink smells the same.
They look the same, too.”

Tillie Walden begins her graphic memoir with her first visit to an ice rink in some time. Just before she steps on the ice, the narrative jumps back eight years, to an early morning in New Jersey. Walden relates the story of her life as a competitive figure and synchronized skater through her family’s move from New Jersey to Texas, through her transition from public to private school, and through her experiences of friendship, bullying, and first love. As she grows into herself, she eventually quits competitive skating after 12 years.

The artwork is lovely, but the narrative suffers from a lack of focus. The dominant mood is a sort of diffuse sense of disappointment. After the move to Texas in the summer after fifth grade, skating “felt dull and exhausting.” She continues skating until the summer before senior year of high school, though, unable to explain it even to herself. Walden has her first relationship with another girl – after having known since she was five that she was gay – and eventually comes out to her friends and family. She experiences sexual harassment and the ensuing self-doubt that will feel horribly familiar to many readers. Yet, no matter what happens, it all feels muted: the highs aren’t very high, and the lows aren’t very low. Despite literally showing her life on the page, it feels distant. It is all beautiful and cold, sitting a little too perfectly in that ice rink.

View all my reviews

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges: Read Harder 2020 (#4: A Graphic Memoir); Reading Women 2020 (#23: An LGBTQ+ Author)

Reading Challenges 2020

The Reading Challenges haven’t gone so well for me the last two years. But I’ve once again succumbed to the promise of a brand new year and brand new challenges. Here’s what I’ve got lined up for 2020:

  • Back to the Classics is hosted by Books and Chocolate. I read two out of 12 last year (and failed to post about either one). Some of the titles I’ve picked for this year are carry-overs from last year’s list.
  • The Georgian Reading Challenge is hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews. The goal is a minimum of four books – fiction or non-fiction – related to the Georgian era (I’m using the 1714-1830 period – sorry, William IV). I’ve earmarked some possible titles, mostly the same as last year, since I read exactly zero books from the list in 2019.
  • The Victorian Reading Challenge is also hosted by Becky’s Book Reviews, and she’s switched it up with bimonthly themes, plus a year-long bonus theme. I’ve picked some books to match.
  • Classics Club is a multi-year challenge. I have a list of 50 books that I plan to read before the end of 2023. I read two of them in 2019, but I never posted about them. Whoops.
  • Read Harder comes from the fab folks at Book Riot. Some of the 24 tasks are going to be more challenging than others.
  • The Reading Women challenge comes from the Reading Women podcast. It also has 24 tasks, and some of these will definitely be challenging.

How about you? Are you doing any of these challenges? Or different ones?

The Great Pretender by Susannah Cahalan

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness

The Great Pretender: The Undercover Mission That Changed Our Understanding of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The woman’s name doesn’t matter. Just picture anyone you know and love. She’s in her mid-twenties when her world begins to crumble. She can’t concentrate at work, stops sleeping, grows uneasy in crowds, and then retreats to her apartment, where she sees and hears things that aren’t there — disembodied voices that make her paranoid, frightened, and angry. She paces around her apartment until she feels as if she might burst open. So she leaves her house and wanders around the crowded city streets trying to avoid the burning stares of the passersby.

In 2009, Susannah Cahallan was hospitalized with what appeared to be classic symptoms of schizophrenia: paranoia, delusions, violent impulses. Anti-psychotic medications didn’t help. Test after test found nothing useful. Until one did, and as soon as the medical establishment was able to identify her illness as auto-immune encephalitis rather than psychosis, everything about her treatment changed: “Hope, clarity, and optimism replaced the vague and distant treatment. No one blamed me or questioned if each symptom was real. They didn’t ask about alcohol consumption of stress levels or family relationships. People no longer implied that the trouble was all in my head.”

In 2012, Cahalan published Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, a memoir of her experience. A variety of subsequent encounters led her to continue looking into the history of psychiatry and the fine line between sanity and madness, and how society identifies those on either side of that (shifting) line. That brought her to the story of Stanford psychologist David Rosenhan and his 1973 “pseudopatient” experiment: Eight healthy people got themselves committed to psychiatric facilities and then had to prove their sanity to get released.

The resulting Nature article, “On Being Sane in Insane Places”, cast a glaring spotlight on what appeared to be serious problems in diagnosis and treatment of mental illness. But there seemed to be holes in the story, questions without answers. Rosenhan died in 2012, never having finished the follow-up book he was contracted to write. The volunteers were never publicly identified.

Cahallan digs into the details of what happened and how it affected the development of psychiatric care. She also looks backward, into the various threads of psychological theory and their supporters and detractors over the years. From Nelly Bly’s 1887 undercover investigation at Blackwell Island through the mass closure of mental institutions a century later and into the present day, it’s a fascinating and sometimes appalling tale, told with a story-teller’s flair. 

In the words of medical historian Edward Shorter, “The history of psychiatry is a minefield. Reader: Beware of shrapnel.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges:  N/A
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