You can read about why I decided to start doing this here.
* denotes a book that I had already read at least once before
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives (Gretchen Rubin)
Horse Heaven (Jane Smiley)
They Left Us Everything (Plum Johnson)
*Halfway to Hollywood: Diaries 1980-1988 (Michael Palin)
Travelling to Work: Diaries 1988-1998 (Michael Palin)
The Infertility Survival Handbook (Elizabeth Swire Falker)
The Brotherhood of Joseph (Brooks Hansen)
Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids (Dr. Laura Markham)
It doesn’t look like I read very much this month, but I think that’s largely because I spent so much of the month reading (or rereading) the second and third volumes of Michael Palin’s diaries. Weighty tomes indeed. I should say at the outset that I absolutely love Michael Palin. He is my favourite Python (saying something given I still have vast vast swathes of their repertoire memorized), I have all his books from his globetrotting, I’ve seen almost all of his movies, read his novels, etc. I even managed to meet him once and get his autograph, which was beyond exciting. He also went to the same college where I was when I met Q. These diaries are wonderful for a super fan like myself as they give you the completely illusory sensation that you actually know the man. The third volume (published last fall) includes the death of Graham Chapman and I was weeping on my couch when I read that entry. The overarching impression with these diaries is of how hard Palin works. Yes, there’s quite a lot of travel, and lunches/dinners/drinks out, and parties, and meeting famous people, but Palin never loses sight of what matters: getting the writing done. Sometimes it’s writing all day for two minutes of acceptable screen time. His discipline is genuinely impressive, especially since (as he himself notes), he doesn’t really need to work for the money after Python. He doesn’t have anything left to prove. He could coast on his laurels, but he doesn’t.
I liked Better than Before because I’m always interested in why we do what we do (or why we don’t). I’ll be glad to have a break from Rubin now- three books in quick succession was a lot. She’s very ambitious in her goals and it gets a bit exhausting after a while.
I can’t remember now why I ended up reading The Infertility Survival Handbook or The Brotherhood of Joseph. I know they must have been mentioned on a blog or in a book. I skimmed most of the Handbook (I could have written much of the Handbook!) but did pay attention to the chapters on quitting treatments. Both books served as a timely reminder that some people’s journey to parenting has been far more harrowing than mine was and I should count myself lucky, even when I don’t feel that way.
Horse Heaven was good fun. I like Jane Smiley and I love horses and I know a lot about horse racing. I’d had this on hold since I read Some Luck and finally had time to activate it and get it sent to my branch. It was another weighty tome which took a few days to finish.
They Left Us Everything is Plum Johnson’s memoir about having to clear out her parents’ house (which they had lived in for over fifty years) after their deaths. It’s as much about her relationships with her parents as it is about the physical process of sorting through their affairs. It’s amazing. Everyone should read it. It really hit a nerve with me because my two surviving grandparents are both still living in their houses and my parents (and their siblings) are going to inherit that baggage and have to deal with it. Johnson reaches the conclusion that all parents should do this to their children, but I think she’s lost sight of the fact that not everyone will have sixteen months to examine every book and knick knack like she did. They might instead just dump their parents’ entire lives into a dumpster, like E. and I witnessed across the street. On balance I still plan to manage my affairs to make sure that I will not leave everything to E.
The last book for the month was Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, which I might go out and buy to keep on my shelf. It was a really good reminder of why I struggle with the parts of parenting I find most difficult, why my reactions are not great for my relationship with E., and how I can try to make changes. She writes about how we go into flight-or-fight mode when our buttons get pushed, and how we can’t react calmly when our child looks like the enemy- we need our brain to calm down first. That struck home. It explains why sometimes I am seized with the need to be right over the most inconsequential of things, and why I get so damned annoyed when E. bosses me around when we’re setting up train tracks.