Archive for May 28th, 2009

Reading Notes: May 2009

May 28, 2009 @ 6:42 pm | Filed under:

So what happened to my reading this month is Harvest Moon.

I often get letters from people wondering how I manage to read so much. I think my typical response to this question tends to be weak on substance because I don’t really know what I’d be doing with the bits of the day during which reading happens, if reading weren’t happening. Cleaning closets, perhaps? I’m pretty sure that’s how I used to explain it: our closets are very untidy, because I read a lot of books.

But now I can speak more definitively, and it turns out it isn’t about the closets after all. At least, not solely about the closets. I finished only a single book during the first three weeks of May, and my closets are no spicker than they’ve ever been, nor are they span. It turns out the answer to “How do you find the time to read all those books?” was “Because we don’t have Harvest Moon for the Wii.”

Because now we do have Harvest Moon for the Wii, and I’ve only read 1.9 books this month.

I don’t know if the .9 is completely accurate. This weekend I finished two books I began in April: George and Sam by Charlotte Moore and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I’m estimating I had about a fifth of each left to read when the calendar turned to May, and I’ve also read half of Nick Hornby’s Shakespeare Wrote for Money. So that’s .2 + .2 + .5 = .9. Am I doing that right? Jane’s my personal calculator and she’s not in the room at the moment.

Anyway, the point is that my reading slowed way down this month because I had a lot of farming chores to tend to. I have a stable full of livestock, you see, not to mention two large fields’ worth of crops to weed and water. It’s astonishing how much I get done in a day: feeding the stock, collecting eggs (duck, chicken, and ostrich), milking the cow and goats, shearing my sheep, turning her wool and the silkworm’s cocoon into yarn and dyeing those with herbs or flowers, harvesting my wildly varied crops (everything from rice to cocoa beans to honeydew melons to eggplant), catching fish to feed to the wild turtle I’m trying to lure home, mining for ore with which to upgrade my tools, pulverizing rocks with single blows of my hammer, chopping down trees, and foraging the fields, forests, and beaches for foodstuffs to eat or sell.

Really, when you consider all that, it’s a wonder I managed to read any books at all this month.


I wrote the above on Monday afternoon. Then I finished the Hornby book and read Karen Edmisten’s book (reread, really, since I’d been blessed with a sneak peek many moons ago), and hey, suddenly I’m up to five books! Fairly reshpeckabiggle, if you overlook the cheating. (Gilead really belongs to April.)

George and Sam is percolating into its own post; it’s a book about autism, an important one, I think. The author, Charlotte Moore, is the mother of George and Sam and another son named Jake. George and Sam both have autism. Moore is a keen observer who kept a detailed journal of her boys’ early childhood, long before either of them was diagnosed, and her loving, intelligent, unflinching account of life with two extremely atypical children is at once moving and edifying. As I said, more later.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows—well, you’ll know what I thought about this book when I tell you that immediately after I finished reading it (a library copy), I bought a copy to keep. It’s perfectly delightful, a novel told in letters—a device that seldom works to sustain a really rich narrative, but does work, wonderfully, in this case. It seems everyone is reading it these days, so I suppose I needn’t bother with a summary. It would be worth reading for the interesting history alone; I knew next to nothing about the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II and was fascinated to learn about what the islanders went through during those long, difficult years. Then there’s the marvelous cast of characters, a crowd of quirky, independent folks you want for your own neighbors. And some mystery, some romance…I’ve half a mind to go read it again, right this minute. Except I can’t, because my cocoa beans need harvesting.