Book Report: Unnatural Texas?

Hey from Austin! You didn’t think my holiday was all traipsing through the mosquito fields and staring at the ocean, did you? Of course not. I also read a lot. Admittedly, I read a few magazines, but I got deeply into this book, which I got at the Texas Master Naturalist Conference a couple of weeks ago. It’s whole title is Unnatural Texas? The Invasive Species Dilemma, and it was written by Robin W. Doughty and Matt Warnock Turner.

The authors didn’t want to put “invasive” in the first part of the title, because, as they frequently point out, none of the plants and animals they talk about actually invaded in the first place; someone brought them to this continent. In fact, the only animal who’s actually “invaded” that they talked about is the nine-banded armadillo, who’s been going farther and farther northward, on its own, for the past couple of hundred years. (I would add to this list the caracara/Mexican eagle and a couple of other birds that are coming northward since it’s getting warmer).

This dude invaded our neighborhood all on their own.
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Book Review: The Art of Racing in the Rain

The book I read all in one day is The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (also a major motion picture, which I did not see). There seems to be an entire genre of books written from the viewpoint of dogs, these days. In fact, here’s a list of them from Amazon, and you will see it includes a book by a human with “dog” in their name.

As for this book, it’s both about racing and being a very intelligent dog observing a life. Like A Dog’s Purpose, this one posits that dogs are put on earth to protect or care for a family. When they are done, they go away and come back as something else. For our book’s dog, named Enzo, he is convinced he will come back next as a human, and he’ll know so much stuff, especially about racing cars.

I can see how this book became a “major motion picture,” because the people in it are not quite as complex as the inhabitants of the last few books I’ve read. The race-car driver dad is just plain good, with just a hint of temptation to be bad. The lawyers are just plain lawyers.

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Book Report: Me, by Elton John

Here’s a random fact about me: I really love to read memoirs, especially of my favorite musicians from the seventies. Some are definitely better than others (like Keith Richards’ memoir, dang that was some good writing). So, I had this book by Elton John pre-ordered and got it the day it was published last week. I’d enjoyed the movie a lot, especially the costumes that were exactly like what he wore in real life, but I was interested to see if his own words differed from the cinematic portrayal.

It matches the movie

Luckily I finished the other book I was reading, so I could delve right into this one. And delve I did. At first I didn’t like the writing all that much, but soon enough, I was trying to keep my eyes open every night so I could read more. Yep, he was an interesting guy. He is also an honest guy. No sugar-coating of his less than stellar qualities for him!

I’ve read a couple of books recently where the author remarks that random decisions or meetings changed the course of their lives dramatically and mused about what would have happened if person X hadn’t been in the shopping center on the right day, or whatever. Elton John does this, too, but I liked his conclusion that all his mistakes, lucky coincidences, and random choices made him the happy man he is today, so it’s all fine by him.

I just thought this was pretty, and it’s here to remind me to tag when I finish writing this.

I have to second that, myself. Every “mistake” contributes to your growth and wisdom.

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Book Review: Homegoing

See, it’s epic.

Here’s the latest book I read for the neighborhood book club. I had to read through it as quickly as I could (meaning with all my other stuff, it still took a week), because my queue is full of good stuff (Elton John memoir arrived yesterday!). It’s another first novel, this time by Yaa Gyasi, daughter an immigrant from Ghana and quite a gifted storyteller. See, folks, some of those immigrants do indeed contribute to society. Ahem.

Homegoing (2016) is one of those epic novels (it says so, right on the cover!) that span many years of one family. Each chapter is from the perspective of a different family member, starting from a maternal ancestor in Ghana and ending up at the present day. Luckily, there is a family tree at the beginning of the book.

Hint: Bookmark the family tree. Even though there is a pattern to the chapters, you’ll probably want to remind yourself of who’s who and how they’re related.

me
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Book Review: Going Tiny

I am sharing a book review I wrote for Hermit Haus Redevelopment, because I think some of my readers here would also enjoy it.

The little book I read is called Going Tiny: Failure + Opportunity in the Future of Affordable Housing  It’s written by a guy named Davis Richardson, who is apparently the age of my youngest son. But, he’s more ambitious or more lucky. Anyway, his age is a real advantage in this book, and his perspective is just what I needed as I looked for books that gave honest assessments of how tiny homes REALLY would work in communities.

I don’t usually write the same thing in my work and personal blog. This time, yes. Why not?

I really enjoyed this charming and idea-packed little book!

If you are a professional book person, you have to ignore some of the obvious signs of self publishing, like random blank spreads in the middle of chapters, and headings even on the first blank page. I also get a little irritated trying to make out the legends on his illustrations, which are in his charming but hard-to-read handwriting. Really, though, you should focus on Richardson’s words, instead, which are written in a colloquial Millennial style that I enjoyed.

Richardson is an architecture student who decided to build a tiny house on a whim, and learned a lot of lessons about building them and (more important to me) what you can DO with them the hard way, by his own experience. Lucky for us Hermits, he did all his learning in Austin, so the examples he gives actually apply to us. What a handy coincidence!

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Book Report: Remember Me Like This

First, thanks for the good wishes after the flying debris episode yesterday. I still have a mighty headache and a sore neck, but I’m staying home from work, taking ibuprofen, and have a convenient chiropractor appointment already scheduled for tomorrow. I’m not supposed to be looking at screens, so I am typing but not looking up except to fix typos. I am apparently driven to type!

The book

Bret Anthony Johnston is apparently very familiar with the Corpus Christi/Port Aransas area of southern Texas, which made his 2014 book, Remember Me Like This, a lot of fun for me. I used to go to the area every year with friends from my old church, until our Most Toxic Member Ever’s kid broke something and they refused to pay for it. I digress, again.

The other book referred to on the cover is a collection of stories. It won awards.

I’m glad the neighborhood book club chose this one, because it was not too gory or triggering for me (I m not fond of the “tiggering” thing, but that’s what happened in the last book, There There; I got sick to my stomach and could not read any further, even though I’d found it interesting up to then).

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Book Report: Darwin Comes to Town

This month’s book club book is so sad I had to take a long break from it, and discovering this book made that WAY easier. I think I just spotted Darwin Comes to Town: How the Urban Jungle Drives Evolution, by Menno Schilthuizen in the new nature books section on Amazon. I loved the cover and was really intrigued by the subject matter: how life evolves in the world’s urban enclaves.

Schilthuizen, a naturalist in the Netherlands and author of many articles in popular science publications, writes really clearly without “dumbing down” the science behind what he talks about. I think his reminder that evolution is not just something that goes on in the forests, oceans, and hidden jungles; it’s going on right under our noses.

I love the cover art.
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