Monday, January 18, 2010

Reading Through the New Year

It's the start of 2010 and I recently reviewed my list of books read in 2009 and the number was pitifully small by my own standards. As a result, I've decided that rather than sign up for a bunch of reading challenges (which feels like more commitment and smacks of *resolution* in a way that I'm not comfortable with at the moment), I'd just peruse some of the existing lists and make up my own list of books that I want to read this year. I'm hoping that with a real focus on which titles I want to scratch off the list, I might make more progress.

Pulitzer Prize Winners/Honorees
Empire Falls – Richard Russo (2002)
Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon (2001)
American Pastoral – Philip Roth (1998)
Breathing Lessons – Anne Tyler (1989)
Foreign Affairs – Allison Lurie (1985)

Orange Prize Winners/Shortlist
Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers (2007 shortlist)
Liars and Saints – Maile Meloy (2005 shortlist)
Small Island – Andrea Levy (2004)
Magician’s Assistant – Ann Patchett (1998 shortlist)

Armchair Travel
French Milk – Lucy Knisley
Immovable Feast: A Paris Christmas – John Baxter
Best American Travel Writing 2006 – Timothy Cahill
The Reluctant Tuscan: How I Discovered My Inner Italian – Phil Doran
On Rue Tatin: Living and Cooking in a French Town – Susan Hermann Loomis
Japanland: A Year in Search of WA – Karin Muller

Back to School
To Kill a Mockingbird -Harper Lee
Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
The Scarlet Pimpernel - Baroness Emmuska Orczy
Their Eyes Were Watching God - Zora Neale Hurston

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder - Richard Louv
Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds - David Pollock
In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Bookwomen: Creating an Empire in Children's Publishing 1919-1939 - Jacalyn Eddy

There will surely be others that I read and add to the list. I thought about making a list of all the cookbooks and food books that I'd like to plan to read, but that seemed sort of silly since I'm bound to read many of them regardless.

The trick is that I own several of these but they're at home in Seattle and my access to books here in Japan is somewhat limited. I love my Kindle, but I'm trying to be reasonable about how many books I buy while I'm overseas (you can imagine the expenses could skyrocket quickly). Thus, the start of all this reading may not truly begin until March when I return to Seattle, but for now, the list is out there and I've stated my intentions in good faith!

And if I'm looking for anything to read in the meantime, there's always my "to-read" list on!


  1. Hmmm... I don't see "Pleasure of a Dark Prince" by Kresley Cole on your list. I'm sure that was just an oversight. ;)

  2. Last Child in the Woods ––
    Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,
    by Richard Louv
    Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.
    November 16, 2006

    In this eloquent and comprehensive work, Louv makes a convincing case for ensuring that children (and adults) maintain access to pristine natural areas, and even, when those are not available, any bit of nature that we can preserve, such as vacant lots. I agree with him 100%. Just as we never really outgrow our need for our parents (and grandparents, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.), humanity has never outgrown, and can never outgrow, our need for the companionship and mutual benefits of other species.

    But what strikes me most about this book is how Louv is able, in spite of 310 pages of text, to completely ignore the two most obvious problems with his thesis: (1) We want and need to have contact with other species, but neither we nor Louv bother to ask whether they want to have contact with us! In fact, most species of wildlife obviously do not like having humans around, and can thrive only if we leave them alone! Or they are able tolerate our presence, but only within certain limits. (2) We and Louv never ask what type of contact is appropriate! He includes fishing, hunting, building "forts", farming, ranching, and all other manner of recreation. Clearly, not all contact with nature leads to someone becoming an advocate and protector of wildlife. While one kid may see a beautiful area and decide to protect it, what's to stop another from seeing it and thinking of it as a great place to build a house or create a ski resort? Developers and industrialists must come from somewhere, and they no doubt played in the woods with the future environmentalists!

    It is obvious, and not a particularly new idea, that we must experience wilderness in order to appreciate it. But it is equally true, though ("conveniently") never mentioned, that we need to stay out of nature, if the wildlife that live there are to survive. I discuss this issue thoroughly in the essay, "Wildlife Need Habitat Off-Limits to Humans!", at

    It should also be obvious (but apparently isn't) that how we interact with nature determines how we think about it and how we learn to treat it. Remember, children don't learn so much what we tell them, but they learn very well what they see us do. Fishing, building "forts", mountain biking, and even berry-picking teach us that nature exists for us to exploit. Luckily, my fort-building career was cut short by a bee-sting! As I was about to cut down a tree to lay a third layer of logs on my little log cabin in the woods, I took one swing at the trunk with my axe, and immediately got a painful sting (there must have been a bee-hive in the tree) and ran away as fast as I could.

    For the rest:

  3. I like your list, and I just might have to steal it from you.

    Especially Kavalier and Clay.

    Thanks for your kind words on my blog -- you made my day!