Reading Time

Friends who’ve known me for any length of time might have been surprised to see that I listed reading time as one of my yearly goals. For most of my life, the challenge was to stop me from reading, reading, and more reading. But life gets complex, doesn’t it? And no matter how important something, or sadly someone, is, it’s possible to lose contact, to find time for that thing or person slipping away in a wash of all kinds of important or at least immediate tasks and needs. I’ve never not read, but I was definitely reading less than I used to and the To Be Read (TBR) stacks were (are) beyond embarrassing. Someone described them as preparing for retirement which at least makes it look like there’s a plan in place. But really, each one was picked up because it looked interesting and I wanted to read it then, but somehow, I haven’t yet.

Today, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve read so far this year. Some are new from the TBR pile. A few are old friends because I love rereading books especially when I fall in love with the people or the world that has been created. The start of the year has been heavy on fiction and the three non-fiction books have each been heavy in their own way. So, to name a few:

The Mrs. Pollifax books. In the mid-1960s when, as Wikipedia describes it, “…women in mystery meant Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and international espionage meant young government men like James Bond and the spies of John le Carré,” forty-three year old Dorothy Gilman began her Mrs. Pollifax series. Mrs. Pollifax was a bored sixtyish widow who yearned to be useful and ended up working for the CIA. Always sent on what were supposed to be simple missions, usually as a courier, her luck, curiosity, and joie de vivre combined to have her sort out what became complicated and dangerous missions. Light and fun, they are both works of their time and a precursor for any number of female sleuths of the latter half of the 20th century. My mom was going to get rid of her partial set. I rescued those books and bought the rest of the series. Great fun to read around the holidays. (My favorite Gilman book is a stand-alone called The Nun in the Closet. Gilman writes good characters.)

The Last Karankawas, by Kimberly Garza My TBR pile includes a number of author’s debut novels that I learned about through programs of the Writers’ League of Texas. This is lovely novel is one of them. It’s about a series of people who live on or are connected to Galveston Island, Texas. It’s a look into the island culture. From the flyleaf, “A blazing and kaleidoscopic debut about a tight-knit community of Mexican and Filipino American families on the Texas Coast.” It’s a wonderful book.

Let the People In. The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid. In case you don’t know her name, Ann Richards was the Governor of Texas from 1991-1995. Hitting over four hundred pages, this isn’t light reading. It’s a fascinating look at Richards of course, but even more it’s a history of the changes in Texas politics through the eighties and nineties and of the roots that have led to today’s Texas politics. There are a lot of names to track, some I knew and many I didn’t, but it was a worthwhile read and while I doubt I’ll read it again, it’s a great reference book so it stays on my bookshelf. (I’m trying to learn to give away books, I don’t think I’ll read again which requires some real self-awareness and soul-searching, but I’m doing a bit better at it.)

The Unclaimed: Abandonment and Hope in the City of Angels, by Pamela Prichett and Stefan Timmermans is a well-researched look at all that is needed in a major metropolitan community to manage the people who die “unclaimed”. I read about it in an article in The Atlantic (I think). I assumed it would be about people who did not have homes, but they aren’t the only issue. It’s a story of complex bureaucracy, people working in that system who try to cope with an enormous volume of work with respect and care, and about family estrangement and the cost of caring for those who die. The writer who recommended it was right, it’s worth the read, but it was not easy.

Last but not least, I just finished Joan Didion’s classic about grief, The Year of Magical Thinking, a memoir about the year after her husband’s death. There’s a reason it’s a classic. I wish I had read it before now.

My goal is to read in the arbitrary order in which I’ve stacked things, but I cheated for my next book and placed it where it came up next. I had preordered and can’t wait to read Judi Dench’s book, Shakespeare, The Man who Pays the Rent.  (If you want a real treat, here she is reciting a sonnet on the Graham Norton show:

Reading has always been a joy for me. It takes me to new worlds or back to favorite worlds. It teaches me new things or different perspectives on things I thought I knew. If you aren’t finding time for reading, I’d challenge you to find thirty minutes in a day. You might be surprised how far you can go in just that amount of time.

Take care,


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