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And Back Again (plus thoughts on Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett)

January 13, 2015

I had a wonderful time with my family: cosy talks, memorable events, and plenty of love and silliness to go around. I must admit, there wasn’t much time for darkness or reading, but I managed to sneak in a bit of both nonetheless. And now I’m back in a wintry land and could not be more pleased about the months ahead of me.

I’m writing from my phone, as some unavoidable errands since I’ve been back have left me armchair bound for a bit, so I haven’t been able to do the blog freshening that comes with the new year. While I was gone I missed my eighth blogiversary, but as I’ve been more quiet than talkative lately, that felt appropriate. I hope my ninth arrives with more fanfare!


There hasn’t been much rhyme or reason to my reading so far. A couple days into the new year, I stumbled across Ship Fever by Andrea Barrett while thrifting. I remembered seeing this short story collection in a Barnes and Noble display once and longing for it (it was published in 1996 so it must have been a themed display), so I brought it home with me.  Serendipity was kind and it set a wonderful tone for this year’s reading: the stories were all influenced by natural history, and anchored by women, and alternated pleasingly between historical and contemporary settings. I’ll definitely be reaching for more Barrett when I’m in the mood for scientifically bookish characters (let’s face it: I’m always in that sort of mood!). It would make an excellent group read with Martha Southgate’s The Taste of Salt and any of the fabulous women nature writers out there (a random handful: Sy Montgomery for foreign explorations, Lyanda Lynn Haupt for either her Darwin biography or her books encouraging every day amateur naturalists, Gale Lawrence for New England backyard observations,  Mary Blocksma for the Lake Michigan area). Oh and perhaps throw in Chrysalis, a biography of Maria Sibylla Merian, and A.S. Byatt’s Angels and Insects. This is clearly a theme close to my heart!

And now I look forward to all of the best of lists surely waiting for me in my feed reader, as well as any new resolutions you’ve all embarked on. I’m also (somewhat belatedly) taking advantage of quiet nights to begin imagining shapes for this year. I’ll share my bookish plans as soon as they’re clear.

P.S.: please forgive any formatting errors, include a lack of italicised titles. I’m entirely new to mobile blogging.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. January 13, 2015 5:57 pm

    For a while years ago I was crazy for Andrea Barrett. I thought “Servants of the Map” was just stunning, and I loved The Voyage of the Narwhal. Then I forgot about her. I need to go check her out again. I loved the way she combined 19th century science and historical fiction. “Servants of the Map” was ethereal, and reminded me of “The Woman Who Road Away” by D. H. Lawrence, even though their ideas aren’t similar – but both were about people becoming lost and mesmerized by distant lands.

    • January 18, 2015 2:04 pm

      Good to know that her other books are just as good! I’m terribly tempted to read Voyage of the Narwhal next, just because of the title. ;)

  2. LauraC permalink
    January 13, 2015 6:57 pm

    My gosh that “Ship Fever” is a beautiful book! I’m glad to hear that you had a good family visit. Welcome back to winter!

    • January 18, 2015 2:05 pm

      Isn’t it a stunning cover? And thanks for the welcome back! It was chilly, in the 30s-50s most days (and actually, it was colder on Christmas Day there than up here), but there wasn’t any snow.

  3. January 13, 2015 7:26 pm

    Welcome back and happy belated bloggiversary :D I just turned 8 too and forgot about mine as well :p We can both make a bigger deal over nine together ;)

  4. January 13, 2015 7:57 pm

    Ship Fever sounds great and I noted down Chrysalis as well. I almost commented “Oh I love nature writing!” but don’t feel like I’ve read enough of it to make such a blanket statement. What I’ve read, I’ve liked!

    • January 18, 2015 2:05 pm

      I say make blanket statements about book love all the time. ;)

  5. January 13, 2015 8:41 pm

    Glad you enjoyed your holiday seasons! Hope to see you around and have a chat here and there. :)

    • January 18, 2015 2:06 pm

      Thanks Kelly! I need to get back on social media; I miss our chatting. I hope you’re well!

  6. bostonbibliophile1 permalink
    January 13, 2015 9:46 pm

    Congrats on your blogging milestone, and you seem to be handling mobile blogging quite well!

    • January 18, 2015 2:06 pm

      Ha! I ended up having to boot up my computer later, because I’d accidentally inserted post breaks (where you have to click to continue reading) and couldn’t get rid of them on my phone. lol So I still have a bit to learn.

  7. January 14, 2015 7:16 am

    I’m very happy to have you home!!! (By which I mean here, not your other home. :P ) Even though it means our home is a little less lively and affectionate and silly since you felt the need to take Thistle back. :) I’m with Bostonbibliophile–you did great with your mobile blogging! If I tried that, I’m sure it would be largely unreadable with all the missing typings and autocorrects. Take it easy, dear friend; I hope you’re feeling much better very soon!!!

    • January 18, 2015 2:07 pm

      As I told Rich, I’ll start planning more trips so you guys can have more Thistle time! ;D

  8. January 14, 2015 7:16 am

    Glad you had a good time over the holidays with family. Were you back down in Texas? Though we’ve had no snow, we’ve had such cold weather (for us anyway). Take care and looking forward to chatting with you again off and on.

    • January 18, 2015 2:07 pm

      I was back in Texas & it was definitely colder than normal! Which I liked of course, hehe.

  9. January 14, 2015 7:45 am

    I really loved The Taste of Salt! For book club recently, we read The Movement of Stars by Amy Brill. The scientific, bookish main character was loosely based on a real-life 19th-century female astronomer from Nantucket, Maria Mitchell.

    • January 18, 2015 2:07 pm

      That Brill novel is going on my tbr list: thank you for the suggestion!

  10. January 14, 2015 9:31 am

    Welcome back from the holidays! And happy blogiversary to you. :)

  11. January 14, 2015 1:55 pm

    I am happy you have such a great time with family and I trust that Thistle also enjoyed the attention undoubtedly received.

    • January 18, 2015 2:08 pm

      I think she had a marvelous vacation, judging from the photos I’ve seen & stories I’ve heard. :D

  12. January 14, 2015 3:37 pm

    Martha Southgate! I am so glad you reminded me about her! The Taste of Salt vanished from my TBR list in a transition a while ago, but I really do want to read it. I’ve just added it back.

    Happy belated eighth blogging birthday, and welcome back! :)

    • January 18, 2015 2:09 pm

      Yay for Southgate! And you know about her novel set in a classics department, right? The Fall of Rome.

  13. January 14, 2015 5:40 pm

    There are no shortages of lists going around of books to look out for.

  14. January 14, 2015 9:16 pm

    I really liked The Voyage of the Narwhal, and I read Archangel soon after it came out. In my notes on Archangel I wrote “Is science all about feelings?” and now I wish I’d fleshed that out. I can’t remember what prompted it, but it doesn’t sound good. Maybe I just don’t like short stories as much. Do you think Barrett has a special take, so to speak, on science or natural history?

    • January 18, 2015 2:14 pm

      Hmmmmm: what do you mean by special take?

      I really like that her stories emphasise that scientists are still humans, influenced by the biases of their times, even as they strive to achieve objectivity. Even ‘hard data’ needs to be interpreted, and is often done so in the way that supports the current dominant paradigm (Kuhn shoutout! hehe) or can be gathered/presented in biased ways. And since her stories include women, the way science has for most of its history systematically shut women out is displayed. So I suppose I like exactly what your question mentions: that Barrett brings the feelings of scientists to the forefront; the depth of her characters (both men & women) makes for a wonderful reading experience for me.

  15. January 15, 2015 12:23 am

    Happy 8th Anniversary and Happy New Year! I am putting Ship Fever on my To Read list. I have never read Andrea Barrett but your phrase “scientifically bookish characters” made me think “oh yeah” so right-click -> Add to Wishlist.

    • January 18, 2015 2:09 pm

      Thank you Bookthump. I hope you enjoy Barrett as much as I did. :)

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