Yes, it’s been a while. But I think I’ve licked my case of the “don’t-wants” (as in “I don’t want to …”), and I’m ready to take this thing on again.
2020 and 2021 were years for reading widely and wildly, and I hope to do the same for 2022: I’ll reread some favorites, but try to dig into more books I’ve never read before, classics as well books published in this century.
Of course there’ll be the crazy rush from the start of Banned Books Week in late September through Witch Week in early November, with daily posts, but those are far enough in the future that I needn’t worry about them. For now, I’m going to introduce a couple of themes that will guide my reading through the year. With these themes, perhaps I can even post once or twice a month!
For my first theme, I’ll feature an author a month — one whose books have grabbed me and taken me for exciting or fascinating rides. I’m in the middle of reading a stack of Mary Stewart adventures, so I could start with her, but we’ll see how that turns out. There are plenty other options.
My second theme provides a curious challenge: Not counting novels, my bookshelves hold at least seven books that are organized by the calendar, with introductory material followed by chapters for each month or season. Two are cookbooks, the others either history or memoir — all, however, draw on the authors’ geographical surroundings and provide glimpses into worlds that are disappearing if not already gone. These books I’ll read slowly, a chapter of each per month (or season), savoring the words and images, and providing you with the highlights.
So, here are the books for my Reading the Year theme:
The Stillmeadow Road, by Gladys Taber (1962), set in rural Connecticut, 1950s. Two divorced women move to the country with their three young children, who start out HATING it (typical NYC kids!).
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle (1991), wherein Mayle describes his life in a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in France. Some of you may know this book from the series starring John Thaw (yes, Inspector Morse moved to France!)
This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm, by Scott Chaskey (2005). A poet and farmer living at the eastern end of Long Island, New York State, takes time to appreciate the wild lands around his community-supported farm (one of the first in the US).
Lost Country Life, by Dorothy Hartley (1979), a history (without footnotes or sources, make of that what you will) of life outside London and other towns in medieval England.
Yorkshire Cottage, by Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley (1942/1984), where, similar to Mayle’s book, the two women recount their purchase and renovation of a cottage in Wensleydale, Yorkshire. Pontefract and Hartley are authors of several books about the Dales (Hartley illustrates Pontefract’s text with woodblock prints or pencil/charcoal drawings), taking us through the area’s history from initial human settlement to the early 20th century. The two authors are dedicated to preserving traditions — of land use, construction practices (stone for field boundary walls as well as for cottages and other buildings) — and their portraits of the workmen, shopkeepers, farm wives, shepherds, and travelers honor this beautiful part of England.
Twelve Months of Monastery Salads, by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette (2004), who lives in the Harlem River Valley a few hours north of New York City.
Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, also by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila Latourrette (1996).
I’ll probably even cook a few of the recipes.
Best wishes to all my readers for a year full of excellent books, cheerful times, and opportunities to gather with people you love. And, of course, please let me know if you’re reading anything tied to the calendar.
I’ll be back in a couple of weeks with my thoughts on JANUARY.