What I’m Reading…

Book Review: Underland by Robert Macfarlane

Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This book is truly remarkable–epic in scope, minute in detail, and so densely interwoven between adventure writing, cultural commentary, scientific discovery, mythology, and immediate sensation of place that it really transcends categorization. At heart, Macfarlane is an adventurer, but one who subverts the “physical challenge as personal journey” trope, pursing instead enlightenment on a cosmic level, uniting all of human history and all of earth’s time as perceived through his shamanlike experiences of the world’s beneath-places. The deeper you dig, the closer science and art become related, and Macfarlane takes us all the way down in UNDERLAND.



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Book Review: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Snatched IDAHO, a 2017 debut by Emily Ruskovich, out of a Little Free Library in my neighborhood. I was gently stunned by the author’s superhuman command of language and ability to break a heart with every sentence, binge reading it in one weekend. Ruskovich started with a haunted place she couldn’t explain and imagined decades of time and an entire community of characters that spring up around one hypothetical moment of tragedy. And it feels so brilliantly real, it’s almost impossible to describe. This book is agonizing in the greatest way. I don’t even know… speechless!



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Book Review: Orbital by Samantha Harvey

Orbital by Samantha Harvey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


ORBITAL is one of so many, many books that I’ve read which are set in space. But it is the very first book I’ve read which, in the reading of it, feels like actually being in space. Dreamlike, cyclical, removed, focused, questing, massive and tiny, lost and tethered. More like a poem than a novel, it’s a view from above. A unique read that takes its own strange time to say what it has to say.



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Book Review: Venomous Lumpsucker by Neal Beauman

Venomous Lumpsucker by Ned Beauman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ned Beauman’s VENOMOUS LUMPSUCKER is a bold, scathing, and brilliant commentary on the impact of human industry on the natural world. It’s funny, incredibly dark, and grusomely incisive. 0% lyricism, 100% wit. But always with an honest love that you can tell is probably still alive, way down there, somewhere in the brackish depths.



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Book Review: Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Your Inner Fish: a Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Neil Shubin’s YOUR INNER FISH is a gift to fish nerds, fossil hounds, and curious souls everywhere. In writing that hums with genuine energy and contagious passion, Shubin unlocks the building blocks of natural history present in our own bodies, from genome to bones, with surprises around every gill. Read it and see how you = fish in deeper ways than you might’ve surmised.



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Book Review: Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Before continuing on with this review, I feel like I have to disclose that I am a person who knows a bit about Shakespeare. As a former English literature instructor, I’ve read Hamlet perhaps upwards of 30 times. It is my favorite play and one of my favorite works of literature for reasons that strangely enough are very personal and have little to do with the centuries’ worth of cache that has cemented the play in the human imagination.

So when I picked up HAMNET, it was for my love of Hamlet. And what I found there surprised me. I am in awe of Maggie O’Farrell’s ability to wholly inhabit an invented reality she has created in place of a complete historical record. This is by no means a story that attempts to replicate the most plausible sequence of events in the life of Shakespeare’s family. However, it is a book that is a testament to how imagination allows us live in and walk around in the idea of the past.

Many works of historical fiction really attempt to tell the story of an era, of a sweeping struggle, a wide-reaching moment in culture, and this book really does not do that. I respect that choice. Instead, O’Farrell tells the story of one house and one family, making their world feel hyperreal and all-consuming. This book intentionally refuses to illuminate much about the life of Shakespeare himself, in fact never naming him, but I do feel that it helped me understand things about the deep love that O’Farrell had for the possibilities, the pains, and the desires that surrounded him. Emotionally rigorous, extremely interior, and clearly written with respect for the dead, assuming the best of them, that they were capable, that they tried.



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Book Review: Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier

Singer Distance by Ethan Chatagnier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


SINGER DISTANCE by Ethan Chatagnier is a story that recognizes how incredible minds approach problems from angles that are anything but straight-on. Much the same, Chatagnier gives us a story of mathematical brilliance focused not on the genius herself, but on the complementary mind most oriented to her despite all her human failings, resulting in a propulsive scientific mystery that is also a generous love story, one that contends with personal histories in a way that feels radically like home even within an alternative historical timeline a few hops over from our own. What a book.



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Book Review: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


An accessible read inspired by the author’s academic research and personal ancestry. Focusing on the early years of emancipation in Barbados and other Caribbean islands, RIVER SING ME HOME explores the journey of a mother whose family was fractured by slavery. Through her journey to reunite with her children, we see the ways in which people fought to bring their freedom from name into reality at massive personal risk and cost.



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Book Review: Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton

Year of the Unicorn by Andre Norton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Ok, this novel was my first-ever read by Andre Norton, who (as I have now discovered) wrote roughly a million books and is one of the grandmothers of science fiction as we know it. YEAR OF THE UNICORN (1965) was part of her larger Witch World series, but reads just fine as a standalone. Guys, when I tell you that the phenomenal weirdness and wonderfulness of this woman’s imagination floored me, I mean it. Classic fantasy and yet experimental even by today’s standards.

P.s. There are zero unicorns in this book, but don’t let that deter you.

And Andre, I hope you are resting in peace. Your stories live on.



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Book Review: The Museum of Human History by Rebekah Bergman

The Museum of Human History by Rebekah Bergman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Rebekah Bergman’s THE MUSEUM OF HUMAN HISTORY is a spellbinding study of how people reckon with the most powerful force in our lives: time. Through touching and inventive vignettes spotlighting a handful of households inhabiting the same town, Bergman asks what any of us might risk or leverage to stop time, and the roles of our bodies, our memories, and life’s artifacts in the attempt.



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