End of Birding Frenzy; On to the Garden

May has turned into June, and my attention finally turns to gardening. While I was in the throes of birding in May, I thought perhaps I wouldn’t get any plants this year and merely tend the perennials. But then I remembered rosemary, and how much rosemary I use in so many things (cooking, of course, and I also add rosemary to many of my herbal concoctions—primarily for its taste and smell, but it also has some fine medicinal properties).

And my feverfew didn’t come back this year, which surprised me mightily. It was growing like a weed last year, even in the sidewalk cracks. This year, both the front and back are missing their feverfew. Rabbits? I do have (at least) two rabbits that spend a goodly amount of time in the yard. Mostly they seem to eat grass, dandelion, plantain, and clover. I wonder if they also favor feverfew.

So yesterday I went to the neighborhood plant store, and I got the rosemary (3) and feverfew (2—hoping it spreads like a weed again). And then I ran across the chamomile. I had decided not to grow chamomile this year—a lot of harvesting of those tiny flowers in the end didn’t even fill a pint jar. But I saw it on the shelf and I did the dangerous thing; I picked it up and smelled it. I smelled it and was back to the wonderful feeling I had while I was harvesting the chamomile last year. Also, homegrown chamomile even dried—no, especially dried—smells so much better than any I’ve found at a co-op or herb store.

So I bought the chamomile. And then I ran across parsley, and parsley (especially curly parsley) is one of my favorite things to eat right from the garden. It has always tasted like bright freshness to me and I believe it has the power to completely change one’s mood or viewpoint around.

So I got two parsley plants (one curly, one traditional—for research on my mood/viewpoint hypothesis).

And then I realized I really needed thyme. Not a lot, but especially for cooking, it’s nice to have a thyme plant. A thyme plant is added to the cart.

I had not planned to buy calendula. I had specifically decided not to buy calendula, as I still have a goodly amount left from last year, plus my herbal friend in California sent me even more. But then I saw the plants, and they have such bright orangey flowers, and they are so happy-making in the backyard. (Also very good for soothing the skin.) I thought getting only two was a good compromise.

I also got a bright red geranium to sit by the back door (this was in my original plan, even before the rosemary was added to the list). There is something about a geranium that makes me smile. I’m not sure if it’s the color, the smell, or its splashy sassiness. But really, now I think about it, I think I love the red geranium because it’s my mom’s favorite flower. So add a bit of love and tradition to that splashy sassiness.

I’m happy to report that nearly all of the plants have been planted, with just three left for tomorrow. I’m even happier to report that I’m ever-so-glad I changed my mind about the plants. Getting my hands in the dirt, working with the plants, the smells, the textures—oh yes. Why did I think I didn’t want to do this? I get to water and harvest and talk to my plants all summer.

I haven’t given up birding, just to be clear. I still have the binoculars on the table beside me. It’s just that now, a few other things can take up more room inside my brain. And June is for the garden.

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The May Basket Project

Two years ago I left May baskets for three of my neighbors early in the morning on the first of May. It was a lot of fun. Candy, flowers, a book—leave the basket on the doorstoop, ring the doorbell and run.

Just like I did as a kid.

It was great fun, both then and now. The making of something purely for someone else’s pleasure (hopefully anonymously) is hugely gratifying, for reasons I haven’t quite divined.

An unfortunate confluence of events kept me from May baskets last year, but this year I am back in the game.

I planned 7 of them—a significant increase from last time. I’m kind of hoping this thing will catch on in my neighborhood.

This morning I woke to rain, and when I thought of the books and dog biscuits in some of the baskets, I decided a belated May 2 delivery might be the wiser choice.  Who doesn’t like to sleep in on a rainy day? After newspaper and coffee, spouse and I went out for a late lunch. Halfway through lunch, the rain changed to snow. As we finished, we had a very decent snowfall going on. Too warm to accumulate, but very fun to walk through.

For sure we won’t deliver May baskets now, I thought; but the snow stopped immediately after we got home, and turned into a slow drizzle. I was putting finishing touches on the baskets (leaving only the flowers to add last-minute) when I realized that the rain had stopped.

Do it! I quick got the flowers and added them to the baskets (confession: One set got left behind on the counter, and another fell out en route—clearly we have a few kinks to work out). The first delivery was a total success: after running away, we saw the door open and the basket taken in. Next we did two neighbors to the north, and then two to the south.

As I was wrapping things up, our doorbell rang.  What? A shadow of someone running away.

A May basket! Truly! Flowers (magnolia and tulip), Shakespeare sonnets, and far too many chocolate candies. (Spouse counters that “far too many” is an overstatement.)

Later this neighbor stopped by, and I found out she gave three May baskets in the neighborhood. Perhaps it will catch on after all. I love this idea!

I don’t know if it is my small-town roots, my introvert nature, or simply the appeal of giving someone something unexpected that draws me so to the May baskets. We learned to do it as kids at school—we made them out of construction paper and hung them on our neighbors’ doorknobs.

I’ve ratcheted it up a notch, forgoing construction paper and staples for actual baskets (often free from friends and family who have piles of them in the attic/storeroom/basement), and trying to apply at least a nominal personal element. Dog biscuits, comic books, poetry, puzzles.

Whether it catches on or no, I plan to continue May baskets to my neighbors. It’s simply too fun, and why not?

What Can I Give You?

I had lunch with a friend the other day, and she brought me a gift bag—a couple of magazines and a few bottles and jars that she knew I would find useful in my herbal work.

We had a good long lunch, including a discussion of South of the Border, West of the Sun, by Haruki Murakami. We have a bit of a tradition of meeting and discussing a Murakami book at Pepito’s in Minneapolis in February.

Murakami stretches your mind. Or maybe it’s your imagination. Or maybe he prods the id. It leads to good and sometimes far-ranging discussion. If you like odd fiction, you might like Murakami (start with The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). If you don’t like odd fiction, you might like Murakami (start with Norwegian Wood). Murakami is one of the few authors whose books I will read and reread. Always something new, something—huh?

We skirted around politics. Not that we have major differences, mind you. But rather because last time we got together we did get into politics, and it felt like we were swallowed by a whirlpool and two hours later spit out the other side. Not that we disagreed or argued, but almost like a two-hour vent. Or even a two-hour rage. We were both disquieted by that.

Our get-togethers are usually very happy making, with talk of books and food, writing and friends and family, and possible personal concerns we might want a bit of help working through. Usually I go home all relaxed and happy and feeling like my soul has been nourished (corny but true, so there). But not after the politics for two hours. Even agreeing, it drained us. So we have put a moratorium on talking about politics. (Although since we make the rules, we can make exceptions if we think it’s important.)

As the conversation moved into other areas, my friend mentioned her upcoming Lenten project (she does a Lent thing every year; I kind of like the idea, but I’ve not yet done it myself). Okay, I’m just going to very pridefully say that she told me that I inspired her Lenten project.

Specifically, she said the occasional things I send her in the mail (I love using snail mail; I visit the post box several times a week) are a special moment in her day (personal mail being relatively rare these days). So she’s decided to send a card to someone on each day of Lent. A friend, a relative, a mentor, someone she admires.

Can we focus on this most excellent idea for a moment? Okay, I am not of the Lenten variety, but don’t most people typically give something up for Lent? And I guess my friend is doing that, in that she is giving up a bit of time in writing the notes. But more importantly, at least to my wee mind, it’s like she’s turning the idea of Lent inside out. Instead of taking away, she’s giving.

I love it when my friends humble me.

She mentioned that she probably needed to get cards for her project, and being rather Lent uninformed, I asked when (soon) and how long (40 days). I knew I had a few cards I could give her and I passed them on after our long lunch.

But later in the evening as I was reading, it niggled. I have so many cards. I have a huge variety of cards (lots that I receive free in the mail from charities, but also just a lot of cards accumulated over the years). And then I remembered a gift that a different friend had sent me a couple of years ago, when I was rather early into my postcard project. She sent me a package of 50 unique postcards. I was awash in delight—so many new possibilities for matching message to postcard.

So I went through the card drawer and pulled together a package of cards. A wide variety that I hope will cross a variety of folk. And I remembered the gift economy—giving what you have when you can. You want, I have, I give.

I have so much more of so many things than I need. Sometimes I latch onto things simply because they could be useful some day. In the gift economy, if my friend needs cards and I have cards, I give her some of mine. Maybe she’ll like them, maybe not (I ask her to return the cards she doesn’t use) but she doesn’t have to go out shopping, and I’ve gotten rid of a bit of my surplus of cards.

But the gift economy is more than that. When I was at my best with it, every time I got together with someone, I tried to bring them a gift. Something small usually—a jar of ginger jam, a magazine, or some rhubarb. A poem. An article from the newspaper. It’s a way of saying, I value you. I think about you. It’s nice to give people things—sharing what you have, or just thinking, what might they want or appreciate that I happen to have?

It feels good. I have a couple of friends who do this occasionally, and I always feel very special. I feel lucky, and blessed. And when I give something to someone, I always feel happy and a little bit lightened.

Note: The gift doesn’t have to be something physical, it could be a service, or a favor. The most common around here is shoveling walks. Minimally one tries to do at least a few inches over the border of the neighbor’s walk, but copying my neighbor across the street, last year I started shoveling both my neighbors’ sidewalk up to their personal walk (about half the full sidewalk). This year, someone shoveled our front walk three times. That has never happened before.

The gift economy: I swear, it’s contagious.

Speaking American

9780544703391I love language. I love language differences. I particularly love regional variations in language use.

When I was growing up, I ordered a pop if I wanted a Coke or a 7-Up. I didn’t find out that this was not universal until I went to college. There I learned that some people who get what I call pop call it soda. To me, a soda was a pop with ice cream in it. I have learned since that most of the country considers this an ice cream soda. (We did have a version of this soda—the root beer float: two scoops of ice cream in a large glass, slowly pour the root beer over the ice cream, add straw, go back to horror/James Bond/Hitchcock movie.)

Speaking American, by Josh Katz, is the book I’ve wanted to read for years. Here’s the soda score:

the-midwest-calls-carbonated-soft-drinks-pop-the-northeast-and-the-west-coast-call-them-soda-and-the-south-is-really-into-brand-loyalty

I had been under the impression, until I read this book, that only we Minnesotans were clueless in the pop definition thing. I am happily surprised to see that Iowa, both of the Dakotas, Michigan, Kansas, Nebraska, Ohio, and the most sensible parts of Wisconsin all use pop. Even Washington State largely uses pop. Hmm. I think henceforth I shall eschew soda, and use pop exclusively. I love regionalism. Linguistically speaking.

Here’s a fun one. I grew up totally and completely saying car’-mel, two syllables. Everyone says it that way here. Then I get married, and my New York spouse says care’-ah-mell. What? Really? It sounded so pretentious to me. And then I find out that it’s purely a regional thing:

the-pronunciation-of-caramel-starts-disregarding-vowels-once-you-go-west-of-the-ohio-river

The yard sale takes up several pages. Or perhaps I should say garage sale; they seem equally common. But in Connecticut you have the tag sale, and in southeast Wisconsin you have a rummage sale. In Brooklyn they have stoop sales.

I learned (should I be admitting this?) that a frying pan and a skillet are the same thing (a skillet more common in the central south, a frying pan more common everywhere else). I had always thought a skillet was cast iron, and a frying pan was anything else. Oooh—maybe that’s a Minnesotan differentiation. (Doubtful.)

Who would think icing and frosting could have a regional rift? But they do: In the South, people suggest you can use the two words interchangeably. The north says no, they are not interchangeable (icing is thin, often used on cookies and for a very thin coating of a frosting—like a glaze; frosting is thick and often fluffy; icing doesn’t fluff). You see? You see how we get into our regionalisms? I think it is great fun.

I had no idea that everyone in the world didn’t call the strip of grass between the street and the sidewalk the boulevard. I grew up in my small town calling it the boulevard. I think that’s pretty much standard across Minnesota (but I should do some research before you take it as fact). Turns out that about three-quarters of the country doesn’t have a word for this strip. I find that hard to believe! Seriously? Is it possible that most of the country has no word for that strip between the sidewalk and the street, that many of us in Minnesota plant with flowers and other fun plants (I have a neighbor on the corner that has blessedly planted raspberries on their boulevard—can you imagine anything more generous?).

A lot of the food differences are fun. Here’s one:

united-states-dialect-map-language

Yep, they got it right. I grew up calling them crayfish. (I wonder how many people call them anything at all anymore. Are they still common?)

Other fun things I learned:

  • Most people call athletic shoes tennis shoes (I call them tennies), but in the northeast and also southern Florida, they say sneakers.
  • Some regions celebrate the night before Halloween. They call it Mischief Night (South Jersey and Philadelphia), Devil’s Night (Michigan and Pittsburgh), Goosey Night (a small bit of North Jersey), and Cabbage Night (New York and Vermont sides of Lake Champlain).
  • I am in the minority when I pronounce aunt ahnt. Except for most of Minnesota and North Dakota, northern South Dakota, and the Northeast (and a standout in Virginia), everyone else says ant.
  • There are also regional pronunciation differences in pajamas, often (no, I don’t pronounce the T), crayons, quarter, coupon, lawyer, grocery, route, and been.
  • A groundhog and a woodchuck are the same thing. (Yes, I should have known that.)
  • While most of the country has no word for when it’s raining while the sun is shining, some areas in the northeast, Florida, and Minnesota (disparate!) call it a sunshower, while the deep south calls it “the devil beating his wife.” Who knew?

This is a purely fun book, great maps, informative, interesting, and beautiful. Did I mention fun? Usually I regift my books, but I think I will do this one on a loaner basis. I want to share it with a lot of people.

A Whimsical Year

A few years ago, my family adopted the tradition of no “new” gifts at Christmas. You could make something, provide a service, regift, or even buy something used, but buying new was forbidden. It has been a lovely tradition, and has migrated far beyond my family Christmas.

The best idea I have come up with so far is the Whimsy Box.

This grew out of an original idea of coupons to be redeemed over the year (e.g., homemade meal of choice, dinner at favorite restaurant, a day getting lost in Fort Snelling State Park). I originally thought big—a special meal out, a special meal in, a full day at the park), maybe 10-12 a year. A lot of them were fun, but we didn’t do them all. Mood, life, timing. Sigh.

This year, as Christmas rolled around, I didn’t want to do coupons. I wanted to do something a bit more fun, with a spark of spontaneity. Hence, the Whimsy Box.

Partly the idea stemmed from the box: a fine tie box (a Native Northwest design that we got in Victoria, British Columbia; it has hinges)—a box I had thought to use as a box for a gift (thinking the box half the gift), but I changed my mind (thinking 95% chance recipient will throw said box in trash).

Not a box I was ready to part with. Beautiful box. A box for ideas. A box of the imagination. A box for suggestions. Suggestions!

Hence the Whimsy Box: I took this tie box, and filled it with whimsical ideas—things I think we will both find fun, often at the drop of a hat. More than 10. A lot more than 10. More like 50. Some examples:

  • Happy Hour at Dixie’s (great catfish basket)como-tropical
  • Take a walk by the river
  • Spend a winter afternoon at the Como Conservatory
  • Go to the downtown library (Minneapolis)
  • Spend a day at a state park
  • Walk to the mailbox
  • Learn a yoga pose
  • Visit our friend in Hastings
  • Go for a walk in the snow at night
  • Take the bus to Uptown and go to the bookstores
  • Go to Minnehaha Falls

And, since Hal has taken an interest in learning to cook a bit (ever since reading Real Food, by Nina Plank), I included several kitchen basics: learn how to fry an egg, learn how to make French toast, learn how to make pea soup, for example. And also, I thought it might be fun for us to learn how to make something together (even in our small awkward kitchen) and so I threw that idea in the box as well. We have talked about possibly doing a frittata.

This is a super easy and very personal gift you can tailor to individual preferences, whether it be to spend more time together, explore new places, spend less time together (not as crazy as it sounds—example: “I will leave the house for an afternoon and you can have the entire house to yourself.”), get more exercise, try new restaurants, get more culture, etc.

We have already had a lot of fun with it (a walk to leave books at a Little Free Library, learning to make French toast), and this weekend, I think we may make the frittata.

Monthly Reading Themes 2017

I mentioned in the last post that I’m continuing the monthly reading theme with my friend Sheila (this will be the 4th year, and I think we enjoy it more each year!).

Here are the 12 themes for 2017:

  • January: Light
  • February: Long Titles
  • March: Literary Forms
  • April: Emotions
  • May: Terrain
  • June: Celestial Objects
  • July: Proper Nouns
  • August: The ________
  • September: Man/Woman/Child
  • October: House/Home
  • Novembers: _________ & _________
  • December: Things with Wings

One of my favorite things about the monthly themes is that they cause me to look at my books through a new lens, often leading me to books that have been patiently waiting on the shelf for many years. This month for the Light theme, I finally pulled out Diane Ackerman’s The Moon By Whale Light, which I got 14 years ago! And I’m planning to start A Certain Slant of Light, by Cynthia Thayer (which has also been on the shelf for 14 years), either today or tomorrow. I’ve almost finished the poetry book, Bodies of Light, by Athena Kildegaard (4 years), and have just started Ordinary Light, by Tracy K. Smith (1 year). More Light updates as the month progresses.

I am super excited about the Long Titles theme in February (ironically the shortest month). This is purely fun. Look at these titles, and this is just from poetry:

  • Cloudy with a Fire in the Basement, Ronna Bloom
  • Like the New Moon, I Will Live My Life, Robert Bly
  • Early Occult Memory Systems of the Lower Midwest, B. H. Fairchild
  • The Mothers on the Other Side of the World, James Baker Hall
  • Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty, Tony Hoagland
  • Encouragement for a Man Falling to His Death, Christopher Kennedy
  • You and Three Others Are Approaching a Lake, Anna Moschovakis
  • Running Like A Woman With Her Hair on Fire, Martina Newberry
  • A Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far, Adrienne Rich
  • In a Landscape of Having To Repeat, Martha Ronk
  • On the Waterbed They Sank To Their Own Levels, Sarah Rosenblatt
  • The Porch Is a Journey Different from the House, Ever Saskya
  • The Man Who Sleeps in My Office, Jason Sommer
  • Combing the Snakes from His Hair, James Thomas Stevens
  • The Girl with Bees in Her Hair, Eleanor Rand Wilner
  • Narrative of the Life of the Brown Boy and the White Man, Ronaldo V. Wilson
  • Diamonds on the Back of a Snake, Pam Wynn

I mean seriously, is that a fun list or what? We had in mind a general “rule” that a title had to be at least five words to be considered Long. Quick glances at fiction and nonfiction also find significant numbers of books with long (and interesting) titles.

Literary Forms (March) is another theme I’m particularly looking forward to, encompassing any book with a literary form in its title: diary, letter, narrative, poem, story, field notes, footnotes, recipe, lexicon, etc.

April is for Emotions. I know I have a lot of happiness books (The Happiness Paradox, The Happiness Project, I Care About Your Happiness, and two books simply titled Happiness), but that much Happy might get a little samey over a month. Calm! I have a couple of books in the calm realm. And then there’s Stephen King’s Joyland. I expect a scan of the mystery shelves might yield some fear, and fantasy might have—enchantment?

May is Terrain. Terrain is a catch-all for landscape, prairie, farm, desert, field, land, mountain. I have until just this moment thought of this theme entirely in terms of nonfiction (having so many rural, prairie, farm, field, land, etc. books). Poetry should be okay; poetry covers a lot of land. But what of fiction? I have at least one desert and one prairie. Hmmm. This will be interesting. Stretching is always optional, of course.

June is Celestial Objects. Probably we could do just sun, moon, and stars, but why limit ourselves? Planets, constellations, galaxies, the universe!

July is Proper Nouns. This has a lot of potential, as you might guess. I’m going to focus mostly on geographic proper nouns—I have so many books, fiction and nonfiction, with a city or country in the title. But it could also be a park, or an ocean, or a mountain range. Or Wrigley Field (which would also work for the Terrain theme in May…).

August is The _______. This theme arose completely and totally from a theme we had last year which was one-word titles (The Wedding would not count as a one-word title; we were unusually strict in specifying that “The” was not allowable). Of course we both ran across a ton of The ________ books that we wanted to read. We will be reading at least some of those in August.

September is Man/Woman/Child. This is far out enough that I haven’t given it a lot of thought, except to notice I’ve at least got a few books in poetry. And I’m for sure planning to read Just Kids (Patti Smith) for this theme, which is already coloring just a bit outside the lines. It will be interesting to see how this falls out. I think children will be seriously underrepresented in my collection!

October is House/Home, a repeat from 2016 because we both had so many books left over that we still wanted to read. And plus we realized that we had forgotten a House book we both love, House of Leaves, by Mark Danielewski. House of Leaves is a beautiful package in and of itself, one of the scariest books I’ve ever read (excepting The Shining, by Stephen King), and perhaps one of the most brilliant. Note: The basic premise of House of Leaves is that a house is bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. This does not sound at all scary. But as I was glued to this book, reading alone, in a large house, I started to get quite freaked out about the closet behind me…. Anyway, Sheila and I specifically chose October for House/Home and we plan to reread House of Leaves together.

The November theme is ______ & _____ (e.g., Lost and Found, Pride and Prejudice). This is so far off I haven’t thought about it at all except to note I have a few poetry books that fit the bill, and two books called Lost and Found (one fiction, one nonfiction).

December is Things with Wings. This is an expansion from an initial thought of birds. Things with wings will also include bees, butterflies and moths, airplanes, mansions and hospitals, flies, bats, and chairs. This will continue to evolve as it is still nearly a year away.

Read along! Pick a theme that appeals to you or intrigues you, and see what you find on your shelves or at the local library. For Light in the month of January, I can’t recommend anything more highly than All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. Let me know what you read—and whether you like it or not.

Happy Reading!

The Books of 2016

I love reading books, I love buying books, I love browsing books, and I love playing with and organizing books. Books are one of the major things in my life.

Throughout the year, I track the number of books I buy on a monthly basis. You may find that strange, but when you find large portions of your budget going into one category, you like to drill down and see what’s going on. In 2008, I bought 267 books (I like to think this is the peak, but the truth is, I haven’t compiled the data from the prior years; it is possible, and not improbable, that the actual annual peak was even higher than 267).

I do not read anywhere near 267 books in a typical year. The problem isn’t that I wasn’t reading. It’s that I was buying at least twice as much as I was reading, which led to a space-flow (as opposed to a cash-flow) problem. Small house, double-shelved books, piles of books on various surfaces. So I started cutting back with a goal of buying only as many books as I read in a given year. It has been a long road, but this year I bought only 85 books while I read 154. A serious improvement!

Of the 154 books I read, excluding the rereads,* 13 books came out on top as the best books of 2016.

A few comments:

Artful, by Ali Smith, completely revised my view of rereading books: She suggests that one would never say one “knows” a symphony or is done with a symphony after listening to it one time. You listen to it again and again, and each time you understand it better; a different nuance, a different mood. But people read books one time, and then they’re done. Rereading is rare, and reserved only for the best. As for myself, I tend not to reread even the books that I love, because there are so many new books out there that I want to read. But Artful has called me back to rereading, reminding me that there always seems to be something new in a book, every time you read it.

House of Coates, by Brad Zellar, left me wondering. Is it true? Not true? A compelling book no matter what, but especially if you’re from Minnesota, or have ever driven past the House of Coates, in Coates, MN.

A Mathematician’s Lament, by Paul Lockheart, unexpectedly and completely rekindled my interest in mathematics. It actually made me happy-excited about numbers again—a feeling I last had in the early stages of algebra.

Speaking American, by Josh Katz, is pure entertainment for people interested in regional language differences. In MN we say pop while most other places say soda, and we make a hotdish while most of the rest of the country makes a casserole. This fun book with maps explores these differences throughout the United States. It’s hard not to read in one sitting.

The rest of the best of 2016:

  • A Year in Japan, Kate T. Williamson (beautiful book)
  • Plant Dreaming Deep, May Sarton
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  • The Senator Next Door, Amy Klobuchar
  • Letters of a Woman Homesteader, Elinore Pruitt Stewart
  • Real Food, Nina Planck
  • Sex Sleep Eat Drink Dream, Jennifer Ackerman
  • Nimona/Lumberjanes, Noelle Stevenson (graphic novels)
  • The Preservationist, David Maine (a retelling of the story of Noah)

*The reread books are The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien; and Journal of a Solitude, by May Sarton. Both of these books would be in my top 10 all-time favorite books, always worth rereading.

Also in 2016, I have managed to get rid of many many bags of books. Most to bookstores (and a few to Little Free Libraries). A conservative figure would be 200, but I think it’s closer to 350 (books, not bags).

I think one of the reasons I bought fewer books this year is because the monthly reading themes keep me focused more on my own collection. What books do I have that I might have forgotten about that fit this theme? Every month I look at the shelves with new eyes. Two of my favorite themes from last year were one-word titles (e.g., Georgia, Pinhook, Fidelity, Nimona); and work/occupation (purely fun just finding the titles: Auto Mechanic’s Daughter, A Mathematician’s Lament, The Orchardist, The Senator Next Door, The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup, The Cartographer’s Vacation—so many to choose from!).

The themes for 2017 have been decided. January’s theme is Light. If I hadn’t just read it a few months ago, I’d reread All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr—the best fiction book I read last year. If anyone out there is interested in following along with the monthly reading themes, I couldn’t recommend a better Light book for the month of January.

I’ll leave the rest of the themes for a later post. They are their own exuberance.