As I wrote at the beginning of the calendar year, I am moving away from challenges and lists and readalongs this year, hoping to follow more truly my reading urges, ideally with an emphasis on my TBR list(s) and shelf (shelves). Well, here we are two months (more or less) into 2012, and I see my reading urges taking shape. I wanted to share what I’m observing, and what I’m looking forward to.
First, what’s happened in the last eight weeks? I’ve read 25 books (wow! that many? really?), but I haven’t had really excellent luck. I really loved eight of them, which is a scant third: not very good stats. I loved:
- all three of the Edward Abbey I’ve read this year; that is, two nonfiction (Down the River and The Journey Home) and one novel (Fire on the Mountain);
- The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros;
- one silly Wodehouse, Leave It to Psmith;
- two Hemingway: one by Papa himself (On Paris) and one by his son (Papa: A Personal Memoir);
- and one delightful examination of Mexican food in the United States: Taco USA, by Gustavo Arellano.
If you have noticed a pattern above, so have I: I am leaning heavily towards a certain two bearded men whose first names start with ‘E’. (On a personal note, I have been toying pictorially with the three bearded men in my life…)
My newfound (or newly recovered) interest in Abbey has come out of my love of Philip Connors’s Fire Season, which I called my favorite book of 2011. I’m still not done being moved by it; Husband is actually reading it himself (a truly momentous occurrence), I am planning a reread at the earliest available moment, and we’re planning a summer trip to the Gila National Forest itself, possibly even to meet the author who has graciously been corresponding with me and overlooking my rabid fandom. The unfortunate coincidence of Fire Season‘s publication with the worst drought in Texas’s history, and a series of wildfires including one that touched my family, has had me thinking about some of the themes involved. I’ve read a few other pieces of nature writing this year (Liebenow’s Mountains of Light and March’s River in Ruin – both lovely, and both reviews to come in Shelf Awareness). But mostly I’ve been revisiting Abbey himself, who represents the epitome of nature writing, at least for me in my not-very-well-read experience. I can’t begin to go into what his writing does for me at this moment; that’s another blog post. But he makes me laugh, and cry, and think and feel, and plan trips. I am trying to take to heart his exhortation to “get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and comtemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves…”
And Connors, and Abbey, are shaping my reading, too, of course. I’m working on building my collection of Abbey’s books, and a few books about him; I have Aldo Leopold’s A Sand Country Almanac coming to my local library; and I have my eye on Muir, although with a few reservations. (I did love his Stickeen as a child. If you see it, grab it.) I have a few books on New Mexico and the Gila coming, too, to help plan our trip this summer.
Again, my thoughts on Abbey are large and evolving, and I’m not feeling worthy of trying to communicate them today. But I’m working on it.
And then there’s the other bearded man. I do have still a handful of Hemingway works on his little shelf that I haven’t read; and I have several biographies of him and other related fiction and nonfiction. My love for Hemingway has not faded yet.
So I guess what I’m trying to say, very long-windedly, is that I am finding great joy in my reading these days by focusing on a few areas that are holding my interest: mainly, two authors I greatly respect, and the writings about and surrounding them. I hope to delve more deeply into Abbey (and similar) and Hemingway, as 2012 rolls on by. Of course my reviews for Shelf Awareness continue; but they take 3-4 reviews a month from me, and that makes up a minority of my reading, so I have time to do my own thing. There will always be some variety, too – this weekend I checked out the new Girl Reading by Katie Ward just because it looked good – but I am doing pretty well at putting down the books that don’t work for me, because I know there’s lots more Abbey et al out there for me.