11 October 2019

Still Reading; or What's in My (Virtual) Book Tote

Am I the only one who has more than one style of reading? I bet not. Most of the time, I read books the regular way—starting on page 1 and reading to the end, straight through, in short order. Other books I read piecemeal over the course of several weeks or even months, and not necessarily in order from the first page to the last.

What? Am I crazy? Maybe, but let me explain. The books I’m talking about are collections of short stories or essays, travel writing, food writing, history, some biographies, and other nonfiction. For example, I might be interested in a trade book on, say, dinosaurs. Because I’ve read quite a lot about paleontology, not only in graduate school but also for fun, my approach may be to skim some of the background chapters and then to read carefully when the author turns to newer research or discoveries.

I’m content with my weird reading habits, but I’m often uncomfortable talking about the books I've read unconventionally here on Beth Fish Reads. I can't help but wonder if I should share my thoughts about a book I haven’t read cover to cover or that took me a while to read. It’s silly isn’t it? If I make it clear I’m still reading, then why not let you know what I think so far?

That’s what today’s post is all about. Here are the books in my current slow-read stack. (Print or digital copies provided by the publisher or publicist.)

Review of An Encyclopedia of Tolkien by David DayI’m a huge Lord of the Rings fan, which I first read when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Since then, I’ve reread the entire series, starting with The Hobbit, about every five years. It’s no surprise that I was excited to get a chance to read David Day’s An Encyclopedia of Tolkien: The History and Mythology That Inspired Tolkien’s World (Canterbury Classics, Oct. 8). Before I get to the contents, just let me tell you that this leather-bound hardback is simply gorgeous. It has gilded edges, a marker ribbon, and contains close to 200 beautiful black-and-white drawings of Tolkien’s universe. Day includes entries on people and characters, lands, creatures, and events found in the books. Some entries relate to Tolkien’s inspirations and scholarship, and others are about gods and legends from various traditions (Greek, Roman, Norse, biblical). I’ve been flipping through, admiring the artwork and reading the entries that catch my eye. If you are a LOTR fan, then you must have a copy, and if there is a Tolkien lover in your family, then this is the perfect gift.

Review of Daughters of Chivalry by Kelcey Wilson-LeeI’m not sure what triggered my interest in the Middle Ages, but I find it hard to resist novels set during that period, and I also like reading medieval history. Kelcey Wilson-Lee’s biography and history, Daughters of Chivalry: The Forgotten Children of King Edward Longshanks (Pegasus, Oct. 1) is more than the story of Edward I’s five daughters. Wilson-Lee presents a non-romanticized look at the complex lives of medieval noblewomen. I’m still in the early chapters, so can’t comment on the overall level of scholarship or conclusions, but I like the different perspectives. Women and girls were, of course, used by men for political or economic gain; that didn’t mean, however, they were totally without independence, that they couldn’t be successfully defiant, or that they couldn’t find ways to take full advantage of their circumstances. Far from being demure damsels in distress waiting for their knight in shining armor, women sometimes had the power to save themselves. I’m assuming Edward’s daughters do just that. Other themes are education, childbirth, and court life.

Review of How to Catch a Mole by Marc HamerMy father was on a lifelong mission to rid our yard and gardens of moles. This was one battle he lost. In How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature (Greystone, Oct. 1), Marc Hamer shares his journey from professional mole hunter to mole accepter. This book offers a little bit of everything because Hamer, himself, has had a multilayered life. The essays and poems collected here reveal the hidden life of moles, recount Hamer's own journey to and from his solitary profession, and bring us closer to nature. In the introduction, Hamer tells us,

There is a difference between truth and honesty, so I am going to tell you one of the millions of honest stories that I could tell you that might be good enough to call ‘true’. One of the stories that led me to the point of kneeling in a muddy field in December with a dead mole in my hand and deciding it was time to stop killing.
The book is beautifully illustrated with black-and-white drawings by Joe McLaren. I'm reading this collection, one essay or poem at a time. One thing, though, even if my dad (who really did love animals) had had the chance to read this book, I doubt he'd have given up on his dream of a mole-free property.


bermudaonion 10/11/19, 8:24 AM  

I tend to read books straight through, even when I read a collection of essays or short stories. I bet Vance would love An Encyclopedia of Tolkien.

rhapsodyinbooks 10/11/19, 8:47 AM  

I read books like you do, with my style depending on the type of book it is. That book about moles sounds like a riot!

Tina 10/11/19, 11:11 AM  

Mostly I read straight through but I absolutely skip around with short stories. Love the mole book.

Vicki 10/11/19, 2:11 PM  

I mainly read straight through but with some short stories & self help I read a little at a time.

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/12/19, 7:35 AM  

I generally read all the way through, but there are some non-fiction books I will read a little at a time. The Daughters of Chivalry looks interesting.

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