2002 Reading List

A Patchwork Planet by Anne Tyler
At last I know what it means to have a life...
The Birds of Swan Point by Charles Wood
A short, charming book about birding at Providence's Swan Point Cemetery famous for its warblers - perhaps more famous as the final resting place of H.P. Lovecraft.
Travelers of a Hundred Ages by Donald Keene
More diaries.
Modern Japanese Diaries by Donald Keene
See December 11.
The Willows at Christmas by William Horwood
See December 11 and December 12.
Short and Tall Tales by Lillian Jackson Braun
Those wacky Moose County stories Qwilleran has been collecting throughout The Cat Who series...
This Cold Heaven by Gretel Ehrlich
Seven seasons in Greenland. Lots of fascinating stuff about Eskimo lifestyle. Nice retelling of Rasmussen's journeys at a manageable length. Much of Ehrlich's description and reflection on her experiences is overwritten. The content was what kept me reading - not the writing.
Trans-Himalaya by Sven Hedin
Volume 1. Hedin's take on Tibet is radically different from all those conquering (attempted conquering, I guess one might say) Brits I was reading last year.
The Nine Emotional Lives of Cats by Jeffrey Masson
His cats like to go for walks with him. He is the center of their universe. This is the cat book he talked about writing back in 1999 when he spoke at the MRFRS annual meeting. Well, it's not exactly what he speculated that it might be back then and it's certainly not what I speculated it could be. It's a quick read and thought provoking, but I think what folks said after the 1999 talk still applies.
A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird
The intrepid Victorian lady traveler in Colorado. Fabulous. I was sorry when I finished it. I missed her insightful commentary on the landscape and people of the old west.
Birds of Siberia: The Petchora Valley by Henry Seebohm
Fascinating account of a 19th century ornithological expedition in search of the nesting area of the gray plover. Of course, not only do they shoot the birds for specimens, they also shoot them for food, and for sport... And they once they find out where the gray plover nests, they eat the eggs! No wonder it took me so long to finish this book. Now on to volume 2: The Yenisei, which I'm somewhat more interested in than the Petchora Valley because they get further east.
The Amber Spyglass by Phillip Pullman
The third and final volume in the His Dark Materials trilogy. I always new dark matter was up to something. :-)
After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
Short stories by the master of surreal Japanese storytelling.
Eccentric Islands by Bill Holm
A collection of essays that got me thinking about island as metaphor, Malagasy music, houses full of books, Independent People (Halldor Laxness), and China. All in one book.
Salt Water Farm: Memoir of a Place on Great Bay by Dorothy Emery Hazzard
Delightfully funny reminiscence of growing up on a farm in southern New Hampshire.
Florence, A Delicate Case by David Leavitt
Another in The Writer and the City series. This one is less of a walk around Florence as a gossipy bibliography of the late 19th/early 20th century Anglo-Florentine community with a strong emphasis on gay men. Full of long passages from mostly obscure, but some great and famous, writers who lived in Florence.
Land's End by Michael Cunningham
One of the Crown Journeys series from Random House, yet another series of slim travel books by well known writers in other genres. Remarkably like The Writer and the City series, right down to the focus on prominent gay male writers. It's a walk around Provincetown, in the same mold as Edmund White's walk around Paris. Flanerie except that Cunningham doesn't call it that. I loved this book. The section on Adams Pharmacy got me thinking about time, memory, mortality, and metaphors all at the same time. I reread it several times. It's that lyrical. It made me want to visit Provincetown again - I haven't been there in like 20 years or so - but I bet I'll go there soon.
The Flaneur by Edmund White
One of the new The Writer and the City series from Bloomsbury. White takes the reader on a stroll through Paris as he knows it and as only he can. I've never been to Paris but after reading this slim volume, I feel like I have.
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
A charming novel written from the point of view of a teenage girl coming of age while living in a ramshackle old castle with her sister, brother, stepmother, and extremely eccentric father. Like a Jane Austen novel only way way funnier.
Word Freak by Stefan Fatsis
A fun easy read that took me deep into the world/subculture of competitive Scrabble.
Eye of the Albatross by Carl Safina
Following a Laysan albatross in her wanderings in search of food for her chick, plus digressions on Monk Seals, Sea Turtles, and fisheries regulations.
Island of the Aunts by Eva Ibbottson
Aunts. A whole novel about aunts. With mermaids, selkies, an amazingly large bird and aunts.
The Time Bike by Jane Langton
The most recent in chronicles of the Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts.
Oaxaca Journal by Oliver Sacks
 A short easily read account of a botanizing trip in Oaxaca with the American Fern Society. On page 48 he mentions "a magnificent Douglas fir on a precipitous outcropping". Without even reading the next sentence, I knew that was the stand of Douglas firs Zsolt discovered in 1994! The southernmost stand of Douglas firs in the world. Sure enough he goes on to say it was discovered by a botanist from the Hungarian Museum of Natural History. Alas, he doesn't mention Zsolt by name or the Dendrological Atlas Project. It is pretty cool to have Zsolt's project almost sort of kind of mentioned in a book by a best-selling writer. Now if only I can find some way to leverage that to help the project.
The Golden Chersonese by Isabella Bird
The intrepid Victorian lady traveler in Malaysia. Her observations on the colonial civil servants are every bit as interesting as her observations on the locals.
The Birds of Heaven: Travels with Cranes by Peter Matthiessen
Mathiessen & Robert Bateman document the status of all 15 crane species around the world through personal narrative and beautiful paintings. Victor Emmanuel lead some of the trips. Fabulous book. Not only a must read but a "must own and keep around" book.
Red Poppies by Alai
A historical novel about Tibet and China and the end of feudal chieftains, tinged with magic realism, narrated by the idiot son on of a powerful chieftain. I could hardly put it down. Political intrigue, sex, war, magic, spectacular scenery...
Consider the Eel by Richard Schweid
Surprisingly readable account of eel fishing, eel history, eel cookery... lots of fun. It ain't Cod but it's darn good anyway.
Mount Hope: A New England Chronicle by George Howe
A history of the town of Bristol, Rhode Island and its most interesting family, the deWolfs. I could not put this book down. The deWolfs were slave traders, privateers, even pirates. Bad guys are way more interesting than good guys. And these guys were definitely bad guys. The author is a deWolf descendent and makes it seem like the history of the deWolfs is the history of Bristol. The weird thing is, he's probably right. And he gives more of a sense of the horrors of the Triangle Trade than a lot of history books. My favorite chapter though is about Nor'west John deWolf who went on a trading voyage to Canton and ended up crossing Siberia and other adventures. Nor'west John married Mary Melville, an aunt of Herman Melville, and is mentioned in Chapter 45 of Moby Dick.
Daughter of the Mountains by Louise Rankin
Another kid's book. A heroic Tibetan girl takes an epic journey across Tibet, Nepal, and India following a caravan of traders who stole her dog. This oldie is pre-independence of India and makes the British seem so wonderfully benevolent it's downright funny. And some of the details of Tibetan culture are just plain wrong (tsampa is not a cheese, for example). Despite all that, it's a gripping narrative with a girl hero. Too bad I didn't know this book when I was searching high and low for books with girl protagonists to read to Andrea (that must have been about a thousand years ago - she probably has a higher reading level than I do now:-)). She tolerates boy protagonists now, but I think she'll appreciate this one (it's one of those ages 9-12 books).
The Fragile Flag by Jane Langton
More adventures of the Hall family. In this one, Georgie saves the country from the Peace Missile. Published in 1984, I got goose bumps thinking of Dubya and the NMD.
The Astonishing Stereoscope by Jane Langton.
More adventures of the Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts. It's amazing where an old stereoscope and a few slides can take you. Must be something transcendental in the Concord water supply or something.
The Swing in the Summerhouse by Jane Langton
Adventures of the Hall family of Concord, Massachusetts. Who knew Transcendentalism was this much fun?
The Wild Geese by Ogai Mori
Related entry: February 10.
Sleeping with Cats by Marge Piercy
Not really a cat book. It's a memoir structured around Marge Piercy's relationships with the cats she's known throughout her life much like Vivian Gornick's wonderful memoir Fierce Attachments is structured around walks with her mother. Related entries: January 16, January 28. I'm supposed to do a review of this instead of my regular column for the spring issue of the MRFRS newsletter. Sure hope readers aren't expecting it to be a cat book. I did really love it though.
The Cat Who Went Up the Creek by Lillian Jackson Braun
Squirrels. Black walnut trees. Newsy postcards from museum villages of the East Coast. Another fine sojourn in Moose County. Related entry: January 27.
Moby Dick by Herman Melville
A whaling voyage out of New Bedford... See entries for January 3 and January 4.
100 Books that have influenced my life || 1998 Reading || 1999 Reading || 2000 Reading || 2001 Reading|001 Reading

Who am I? Why am I here? || Journal of a Sabbatical || The Piping Plover Page || Plum Island Bird List
Watchemoket Cove Bird List || Antarctica Trip Bird List || Anza-Borrego/Salton Sea Trip Bird List



Copyright © 2001, Janet I. Egan