Reading

Seasonal Books: Summer

The “Books We Love” category will include books we both own or have checked out from our library, that we have found to fit our themes, are fun and have had many re-reading requests. These are by no means complete lists of books we’ve read.

                         

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Picture Books About Scientists

We’re on our break from our more structured homeschool curriculum, but that doesn’t mean the learning stops.  We’re busy in the garden with vegetables, fruits and flowering plants where our daughter helps with everything from shoveling compost, planting seeds and seedlings, pulling weeds and watering.  And of course eating the fruits of our labor.  We’re keeping quail this season.  I’ve continued to request piles of related theme books.  Lately, real gems of picture books about scientists

          

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Books for the Letter O

Testing out formats.  Should I have a post each for just one letter or should I separate out the subject matter?  There are certainly plenty for Owls as we did a unit on owls, but “O” was also the letter of the week so I included octopus, ostrich…

            

 

    

    

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Book List: Dinosaurs

Books We Love will include books we both own or have checked out from our library that we have found to fit our themes, are fun and have had many re-reading requests. These are by no means complete lists of books we’ve read.

This is just sample book list as I try to figure out what format I want to use.
           

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Seasonal Books: Autumn

Books We Love will include books we both own or have checked out from our library that we have found to fit our themes, are fun and have had many re-reading requests.  These are by no means complete lists of books we’ve read.

This is just sample book list as I try to figure out what format I want to use.

                 

Books We Love
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Seasonal Books: Winter

The “Books We Love” category will include books we both own or have checked out from our library, that we have found to fit our themes, are fun and have had many re-reading requests.  These are by no means complete lists of books we’ve read.

Winter category is including topics on snow, hibernation, migration, solstice and seasonal change.

This is just a sample book list as I try to figure out what format I want to use.  Whether I want to include summaries or my review, or have each topic on it’s own page.  But for now, links!

                                   

 

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Book List Anyone?

We’ve been getting into a nice routine with our homeschooling. We are going at our own pace, expanding on topics when there is greater interest. I’m so proud of the work she is doing and the conversations we end up having through the guidance provided by Moving Beyond the Page. Having school outside on the patio and in her “fort” of her swing set on these gorgeous days. We’ve also hit a stride on our phonics and reading, using Explode the Code with Bob Books and other phonics word family books. Math, we are speeding through book A of Singapore Essential Math K, as I know she understands the concepts already, but am using this as part of her writing practice, but she still has fun with all the manipulatives to play with the ideas.

At the beginning of August, I installed the “My Book List” app on my phone as I was looking for a quick way of recording and keeping track of the books we’ve been reading each week. My daughter loves to be read to and is enjoying being an emerging independent reader, taking great pride in reading to visiting Grandparents. We visit our library at least once a week, sometimes more. In addition to just fun books and Jana’s picks, I have been making good use of Inter Library Loan (ILL). For each unit I’ve researched and looked for recommendations for quality literature that relates to the week’s theme, vocabulary or letter sound. Each week we take a large stack of books to return only to leave with an equally large pile of new titles. Well, it’s the end of two months and there are over 225 unique titles on the list! Note, it does not count multiple reading of favorite titles.

As I have found looking to other sources of book lists a great starting point before tumbling into that rabbit hole of reading book reviews and summaries on Amazon, I’m considering creating lists here to share. As we are in week 10, I already have quite a few good reads for the pre-school/kindergarten set. The Book List app conveniently has an export feature which sent my list in chronological order already loaded with the links to Amazon, so that part is easy. It’s just finding the time :) Either it will be many individual posts or just a page with the list and may or may not contain notes from me. Certainly there have been the ones that really stand out that I may provide commentary on.

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Simple Pleasures

Sitting on the back patio on a sunny afternoon, cup of coffee in one hand, a good book in the other (currently reading Dry Store Room #1). I keep getting distracted by all the song birds, so I fill the bird feeder again. In the branches of the large Pussy Willow above me there are a few of the infamous green parakeets of England, I didn’t know they occurred this far out of the city, they usually haunt Kew Gardens and surrounding environs. But there they are.

And lastly, dark chocolate Hob Nobs are simply divine.

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Book In My Reading Queue

I’m looking forward to a book I recently ordered, it should be here on Monday.  It’s “Store Room No.1: The Secret History of the Natural History Museum” by Richard Fortey.  It’s primarily a collection of stories and anecdotes of the hidden treasures and characters who have worked at the British Museum of Natural History over time.  A sort of alternative history of this museum.  I think it’s par for the course to have unusual people and stories associated with museums.  Taxonomy does lend itself to people with a penchant for weird passions.  A graduate student I once worked with had been working on a “behind the scenes” narrative of the history and people of the bug rooms I formerly worked in.  I wonder what happened to that project.
Anyway, it’s in my queue and I expect it will be a really enjoyable read with stories I can empathize and sympathize with.

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A Ticking Time Bomb

I am just amazed that I have not yet had a significant cold. At all. Since we’ve moved to England. Especially now that I have been regularly exposing myself to hundreds of people confined to small spaces in public transport. On the train and the underground I am surrounded by sneezing, coughing, sniffling individuals harboring some virus. Never mind all the traveling we’ve been doing too. Airports, other countries, more strangers and their respectively foreign bugs.

I’ve even been reading a virus-centric book on the train: The Invisible Enemy: The Natural History of Viruses. Which, given my not so secret fascination with reading about viruses, this book should come as no surprise.

Either my immune system is made of steel or I’m a ticking time bomb waiting to have an explosion out my nose.

My guess is it will hit when we travel back to the States for the holidays.

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Greece: Athens – Acropolis and other thoughts

Deb with the ParthenonIt’s marginally less obscenely hot today, before we leave for our flight, we needed to make it to the Acropolis and the Parthenon. No archaeologists on strike today, up we went.

The Propylaia (the main entrance) and The Parthenon are both undergoing extensive restoration work, only small portions are not surrounded by scaffolding, maybe some day we will revisit the sites once the work has been completed. A project of Perikles, the complex of temples was built starting in the 5th century B.C. The Parthenon is a temple built and dedicated to the goddess Athena and over the centuries has been utilized as a church, a mosque and even housed weapons as an arsenal through various invasions. Even with the amount of damage it has sustained, it still remains the symbol and pride of Athens.

Deb with the ParthenonWhile Mark was working in the early afternoon, I also made my pilgrimage to buy some yarn made in Greece to add to my “knitting scarves as souvenirs” project. Walking by one of the many tiny Byzantine churches, around the corner and parallel to the Ermou Street clothes shopping is a long street full of textile shops, largely bolts and bolts of fabric. I initially asked at the hotel desk where to find such a shop. I didn’t want to wander aimlessly in the oppressive heat. She asked me how many and what colors I was thinking, “when you come back, we’ll have yarn for you!” stymied I explained, “No, no! I like to go look at the yarn myself!”

I’m starting to have a back log, snowy white fluff from Finland, soft blues from Spain and now a chunky wool of ochers and terra cotta. Scarves are quick (relatively), I’ll catch up!

Byzantine Church in the middle of Ermou StreetI did have a good bit of down time in the hotel escaping from the heat and sun, but even this time was spent reading about Greek life. I brought along with me It’s All Greek To Me by John Mole. Two English ex-pats who came to living in Greece for work and then decided to buy a home there, this place where they were the happiest they’ve ever been. He takes us through all the details as he buys essentially an abandoned goat shack in the 1970’s and remodels it into a home where they have lived for the past 30 years. Interspersed through his own story he includes tidbits of Greek history, mythology, culture and language. I learned quite a bit about traditional village life, Greek life philosophy, the haggling mentality, their love of their own food and identity. And even through the changes in modern society they managed to create a piece of their own Arcadia. It was a fun read made more real and relevant as it was contextualized within my own experience.

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Julie/Julia: A Project I need

I just finished reading Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell. I’m sitting here thinking, “now THAT is exactly the sort of project I need!”

Julie spends a year cooking all 524 recipes in Julia Childs classic “Mastering the Art of French Cooking.” I love to cook and something like this would expose me to new dishes and techniques. I have already spent a number of afternoons researching and gathering supplies for complicated recipes (a Lamb Tagine is fresh in my memory, that I have yet to write about). However, in this particular cook book there are far too many recipes I would find too revolting to even try. There are dozens of recipes involving offal, and simply put, I don’t do offal. This is not the Depression, I don’t need to eat organ meats. Certainly though, I have the time on my hands to devote myself to such an involved project.

Now that I finished the book, I searched around and found her blog that she kept for “The Project” which I should have been reading along with the book, as there are more details about the recipes on the blog than in the book. But I also found this: A Vidlit with her reading a section I particularly enjoyed. Her voice sounds like what I thought it would! I’m a fan of books on tape, but more of a fan of hearing books on tape read by the author. You get a better sense of the timing and humor, the subtleties that are hard to communicate just in writing. There is always some bit of personal interpretation reading a book in your own voice, something of the author gets lost in that translation. But hearing the voice, that little sampling of the way she read her own writing just put the wit more in context for me.

Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, I highly recommend this read!

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England: Didsbury – Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden

AzaleasWith Azalea’s aflame, carpets of Columbine and surrounded in swaths of fragrant Wisteria I walked through the Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens and hiked on through to the neighboring woodlands.

I purchased the mini guide book written by the curator/gardener of the grounds and read it while sitting in the gardens. He had his own flavor of humor interjecting the stories of how and why certain plants are included in this garden with tales of personnel past and present, and ghost stories galore associated with the buildings on the grounds.

It really felt like an oasis that few people new about. I visited the grounds and woods twice this week and barely saw another soul. On the hike I got a little “lost” well, not really, it was just a detour to the River Mersey by missing taking the right trail back to the village. It was only a problem when I realized how hungry I was and that I was probably at least an hour away from getting out of the woods.

I made it back to civilization and had a lovely lunch at a French cafe (Cafe Rouge), I ordered the Prix Fixe menu, hoping it would be a fast lunch. A tomato tartlet with creme fraiche, Penne with smoked salmon and zucchini followed by creme brulee and coffee took all of two hours to escape from.

The complete photo set

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England: Didsbury – Pub Names

I’ve mentioned that I had been reading Bill Bryson’s Notes From a Small Island. And that I keep putting it down because each chapter goes something like, “when I first visited this place in England it was super awesome twenty years ago and now it’s all crap.” But throughout this book he talks of the names of pubs and free houses. Most of them I thought he was just making up names for comedic value.

Didsbury actually has a place called “The Slug and Lettuce” which is, apparently (and news to me), a chain across Great Britain. But there is also “The Dog and Partridge” and “Ye Olde Cock”

Although not as entertainingly graphic as “The Slug and Lettuce” I did have a sit with a latte and my current read (Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously) in the “Saints and Scholars” cafe and bar.

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Insomnia and Book Reviews

Really, body, please, I would like to sleep at night and not during the day. Even forcing myself to stay awake after getting up early, though I am very tired, I’m wide awake. The other night I took a sleep aid. Huge mistake. I was still up all night, yet my whole body just felt heavy and weird, and not in a good way.

Ugh.

On a positive note, I’ll review a few of the books I’ve most recently read in these wee hours:

Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson.
False advertising. I read the back cover of this book expecting an awesome romp full of rapid climate change weather madness in this near future saga. 330 pages into it and we finally get some action.

Had the cover said it was more about individuals on the inside of NSF and government trying to work towards a better solution to who and what projects get funded, tackling bigger issues in the scientific community, centering around climate change issues, I may have approached the book with a different attitude. It’s certainly believable in its panel peer reviews, laboratory personal dynamics and political rhetoric.

I’m a sucker for punishment, Robinson has this pattern of having WAY too much detail in the character development phase of his story telling. It’s irritating, so much so you can flip through pages and pages of minutia detail and not miss anything relevant to the big picture. And his books don’t end. They’re never just a tidy stand alone story. You have to read the sequels, which this apparently has two more books following it moving at a near snails pace.

Yet, despite these complaints, I now feel compelled to at least move on to the second book since it finally got to the point and a bit more interesting in the last 100 pages or so.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown.
Ah, brain candy. Here we’re in that trademark formula found in all of Brown’s books. A familiar character even, the symbologist from the Da Vinci Code is at it again. Brown writes books for geeks, as this one centers around a plot by the Illuminati against the Vatican.

Brown has a gift for writing twists upon twists upon twists in his books, twists that eventually all connect, you think you can guess where the story is going, but really you have no idea. I’m going to have to pick up his fourth book “Digital Fortress” I haven’t been disappointed yet with his writing. He tells nice and tidy stories that are entertaining and a quick read.

Started reading Notes From a Small Island by Bill Bryson.
Stopped reading it and have picked it up off and on. He is touring England by public transportation only and writing of his memories before he moves back to the States. This book is riddled with thoughts along these lines: “I visited this place twenty years ago and it was beautiful and charming, but now visiting it again it’s awful and nothing like it used to be.” I just got here. Everything is new and sparkly. I don’t want to read about how disappointing this place is now, despite the hilarity that ensues everywhere he goes, despite how wonderfully delightful his writing is.

Started reading The Years of Rice and Salt by Kim Stanley Robinson.
I know, I know! As I said, I’m a sucker for punishment. But the plot summary sounds so promising! It’s an alternative history, a “what if the Plague wiped out 99% of the population of Europe instead of only 33%?” We’ll see, so far it’s a little quirky.

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Currently Reading?

Huh. I haven’t been reviewing books lately. Between the book club books and my own reading for pleasure I have quite a list to review. Everything from my recent themed thread of reading about hot virus’s to the brain candy fluff.

I may or may not get around to a more substantial review of these, but for my own record, here are some of the books I’ve recently read, am in process of reading or are in the queue to be read:

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. The story of Ebola

The Demon in the Freezer by Richard Preston. The smallpox story, which the reality is more terrifying than any doomsdayer could conceive in fiction.

My Antonia by Willa Cather. Book club book.

Family History by Dani Shapiro. Book club exchange book.

Deception Point by Dan Brown. Brain candy, easy couple day read. He has his formula that catches the reader quickly.

The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Another brain candy book that I read in a day. For all the hype and people taking a piece of fiction far too seriously, I enjoyed it, he tells an interesting story.

Watching the English by Kate Fox. An anthropologists look at what it is to be English. Mark is reading it now, tantalizing me with fascinating tid bits. It’ll be in my hands soon enough.

No Touch Monkey by Ayun Halliday. Travel journal, one of my favorite types of reading. It’s in my queue, I picked it up for Mark to read while he travelled in England. Plus, how can I resist a book with a review from Stephen Colbert!

The New Killer Diseases To add to my hot virus theme of books. It’s next in my queue.

Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales. We got into watching that “Survivor Man” it just works to feed that fascination.

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Currently Reading: Freakonomics

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner

The mysteries of everyday life are not so mysterious if you ask the right questions and draw connections. These authors understand full well that correlation does not mean causation and look at statistics and patterns of behavior in unheard of and somewhat controversial ways. The first chapter delves into reasons why the crime rate dropped across the board all over the U.S. during the 90’s. I will say the answer is surprising and will not go into details here as the book does an excellent job arguing the point.

Whether or not you agree with the authors, this is certainly an eye opening read and promises to give you a completely different perspective on the world around you and change your impression on how data is interpreted..

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Currently Reading: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I admit it, I was excited about this book coming out. I had resisted reading this series for a long time, they were children’s books and uber trendy. I eventually caved and read the first five books while on vacation two years ago. These reads are brain candy, each only taking a day or two to complete. I had this book in my possession this weekend, but was too busy to start on in it until almost mid-week.

The author does have a certain talent, she’s figured out an excellent formula. As she writes, the story slowly weaves and meanders, sometimes getting wordy and excessive with impertinent details along the way. However, usually right before two thirds of the way through the book everything starts to gel and it grips you and you find yourself unable to put the book down. After a marathon reading session last night gripping the book tightly and feverishly turning pages, I’ve finished the latest installment.

Always with the most enjoyable reads, the brain candy books, I fly through them so quickly; then I end up asking myself why I didn’t spread it out a little bit, it’s not a race, I’m left wanting more. I just need a few more reads in my queue that are there as brain candy.

I will say, the author has certainly set herself up for a successful story line to continue into the seventh (and supposedly last) book of the series. It seems to me that this plot set up could not be adequately addressed and resolved in just one more book. We’ll see, I’m sure I’ll be anxiously awaiting the next release.

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Currently Reading: One Man’s Wilderness

One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith from the journals and photographs of Richard Proenneke.

In 1968 Proenneke built a log cabin on the Upper Twin Lake in Alaska. This book is a compilation of sixteen months of journal entries where he recorded what was going on in this secluded and pristine piece of wilderness. He included simple records, which he apparently kept for the thirty years he lived there, on weather, snowfall, lake ice thickness; and notes on Caribou herds, bears, wolves, birds and any of the living things around him.

He reflects on living modestly and appreciating the simple things in this world. We have so much in our lives that are only there for our comfort or convenience. What is one person’s comfort is another person’s misery. Freeing himself from modern ‘comforts’ he was able to slow down, observe and listen, to absorb and gain understanding of the natural world.

Reading this book makes you feel a little spoiled and your life look cluttered. As much as a person longs to simplify their life or their needs, it can not compare to Proenneke’s experience. How many of us would have the courage to leave all of your material desires behind, and literally live off the land with very few ‘luxuries’ afforded to you.

Someday, Mark and I want to live in a cabin on a piece of wooded land near a body of water. Our dreams are not nearly so rustic, but we hope to simplify somewhat.

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Currently Reading: A country year

Currently Reading: A Country Year by Sue Hubbell

This reads as if I’m reading my own writing. It’s casual and conversational. Each chapter is analogous to a blog entry, chronicling short episodes and observations. She lives on a 90+ acre piece of land in the Ozarks and makes her living as a bee keeper.

The book progresses through the seasons, capturing stories from spring through the following spring. Simple thoughts recorded, taking care of her chickens and land, many dealing with apiculture anecdotes, recipes and what fills her time during the slow winter months. There are a number of chapters devoted to natural history observations on her property, about her gardens, about the birds and wild things she shares her space with, all respectful of the natural world around her.

She remembers what it was like dealing with petty office politics, even in a university position, and is glad to have removed herself from it. Choosing to live a more simple life. This is just the book I needed to read.

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Currently Reading… well sort of…

I picked up a couple interesting and useful reference books. They are not necessarily books to curl up with on a cozy chair, but ones that I can turn to for relevant information regarding aspects of my work and general curiosity: Choosing and Using Statistics: A Biologists Guide and Ecological Census Techniques : A Handbook.

The third book of the day is a curl up with me on a cozy chair kind of book: The Secrets of Wildflowers: A Delightful Feast of Little-Known Facts, Folklore, and History. This book seems to complement well the butterfly anthropology hardback I

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Currently Reading: The spirit of butterflies

I recently finished reading “An Obsession with Butterflies” and after carefully reading through the bibliography have recently ordered a number of books used as references.

One of these books, I had already purchased and had started to read before I noticed it was among the bibliography–

The Spirit of Butterflies: Myth, Magic and Art by Maraleen Manos-Jones

The book takes an anthropological, historical and sociological look at diurnal lepidoptera , “it celebrates the significance of the butterfly in mythology, religion, superstition, literature and the arts.”

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Currently Reading: love of insects

For Love of Insects by Thomas Eisner

Each chapter focuses on some aspect of chemical ecology as it relates to insect adaptation, defense or reproduction. Each chapter also focuses on a particular group or individual insects and why and what inspired the author to pursue the research into its chemical ecology. I was excited when I initially opened the book and flipped through the pages to see familiar names and images. These are bugs that I have become intimately familiar with in the field or through sorting in-house collections.

As an aside, I’ve started using this site to maintain my booklists and reviews. It even allows for the links on my sidebar to my current reads.

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Currently reading: butterfly obsession

An Obsession With Butterflies: Our Long Love Affair with a Singular Insect by Sharman Apt Russell

A natural history of an obsession, riddled with taxonomy, butterfly biology and ecology, and history of prominent figures that study, collect and obsess. I have become familiar with many of the stories, bugs, institutions, and cast of characters in this narration in my years working at the museum, however, this book is filling in details of the tale.

I have come across notes and newsletters from prior curators in my department. They chronicle a history of their own and I have always thought someone needed to write the story of our bug rooms. Many of the same people and accounts detailed in ‘Obsession With Butterflies’ play into the history of our collection.

As I read this book, through the pages of well researched elegant and beautiful prose, I find myself reflecting on my occupation. I realize how fortunate I am to work where I work and do what I do. I admire Lepidoptera in my garden and in flight, I appreciate their diversity. I’ve collected and carefully prepared specimens. I’ve studied, dissected and have become intimately familiar with a handful of these creatures. And even though small and seemingly insignificant to the whole, I am a part of this obsession, I am a part of this history.

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Currently Reading

The Lobster Chronicles: Life On a Very Small Island by Linda Greenlaw

The author, famed for being the captain of the sister ship to the doomed Andrea-Gail as featured in The Perfect Storm, departs from the 17 year life as a swordfish boat captain at sea in favor for a life on a tiny island seven miles off the coast of Maine to be a lobster fisherman. Delivered in an easy to digest conversational tone, it chronicles a season of lobstering and isolated small town life (the island has 43 year round residents).

A recurring theme involves the struggles of maintaining the small scale lobster fishing traditions that keep those families and their lifestyles afloat in the face of commercial fisherman. The concerns of life take on a different flavor and pace in such a secluded place. The drama they face can ruin their livelihood and destroy a community and generations of tradition; the people are involved and passionate.

The story appeals to that dream of mine to live far from humanity, it’s harder to get more remote than a small island. I can clearly envision the coastal and island imagery in these pages, I have been to Maine and in that visit I did experience island life and being isolated from the main-landers via an hour long ferry ride. I could see myself loving and looking forward to a bi-weekly trip to the main-land for supplies and to stock pile books to read on my porch looking out into the ocean (or on my porch over looking the forested land we will someday have). It is an enjoyable read, especially if you have escapist fantasies.

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