What I Read: August 2021

I read a lot, but not necessarily well, I wasn’t thrilled with a lot of my fiction, however, I think it again helped me to think about my fiction. And the two non-fiction books I read were EXCELLENT!


Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling. A must read for everyone in the West! Gives a true perspective of how much even the “poor” (US “poverty” is not based on actually need but comparison) of the West are SO much better off than not just true poverty and past times, but level 3 (there are 4 levels, Westerners and some other nations like Japan are 4). And how much the overall world has improved (and I’m a history major, I knew we had it good in modern, but wow, I still didn’t know how bad it used to be for children, that is a hard, necessary section). Also, I’m trying to keep in mind that level 3 workers work I think calculated 90+ hours, so if I have to patch together a couple jobs that may not even add up to 40 (and that I can CHOOSE), I can get over myself a bit, it won’t kill me.

I want to explore the authors’ site, especially the Dollar Street part to see all the different standards of living around the world. Reminds me of that Children Around the World book we had growing up. I want this in my library.

On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. I need to improve my writing but most of the writing books I came across were for fiction. This book benefits EVERY type of writer; it is excellent, truly emphasizing the importance of strong writing (which is rarely displayed in all the poorly written things published). I’ve definitely got this on my purchase list as well, I’ll need to review and review. I’m not trying to be a “writer” per se, I’m just trying to be more readable on my blog, to learn to express myself better and clearer. And maybe, maybe, if I go back to school someday for history, I won’t dread the reams of writing that will be necessary quite as much.


Ashtown Burials series by N.D. Wilson (one of my favorite authors): The Dragon’s Tooth, The Drowned Vault, Empire of Bones, and part of The Silent Bells. I have 14 chapters from the serialized version the author is publishing which I’ve caught up on, I realized when starting them (and an earlier series mistake of not rereading the earlier ones) that I was going to have to reread since I’d forgotten. I’m so glad I did, I enjoyed these so much, I highly recommend, especially for a summer adventure vibe. Also, I’m going to have to get some of the merch too.

Andy Catlett: Early Travels by Wendell Berry. I have loyalty-dislike relationship with Berry. This is my state’s best author, and I am near Henry county where his stories are set (although my family is mostly from the Western part of the state). He is our states greatest author I believe. And I appreciate aspects of his writing. However, I can’t stand the fatalistic tone (I’d have to say, very authentically Kentucky; if I have to hear “it is what it is” from people in real life I’ll scream) or his rather ahistorical romanticizing of agrarian life.

Dune by Frank Herbert. I read this quite easily, although not super enjoyably. I just felt like this had so many plot holes or underdeveloped aspects, it just wasn’t satisfying or even as dramatic as the movie previews made it feel. I’m still interested (although less excited) in seeing it in theater though. I feel like sci-fi often has super interesting conceptions and plots, but falls short in the development. However, I need to read more sci-fi. Dad keeps bringing up Isaac Asimov (a blast from the past, Dad had a couple shelves of just Asimov, you know what, I think I need to do a post on our family’s book tastes . . .) and how he thinks every newer sci-fi author rips him off which may or may not be actually true. I think I’ll try Asimov’s Foundations series sometime.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. Joy Clarkson picked this book for the readalong she hosts on her podcast Speaking with Joy. I felt it so mysterious and grand because of the beginning and the podcast, but yeah, the build up didn’t go anywhere and ultimately it felt very forgettable especially after the boring ending. Although this is shorter and different, I felt that way about her first book, especially since I usually forget I read that book and it was a TOME!

Circe by Madeline. It held my attention mostly, but I sure got sick of the “problems” of a self-indulgent, self-absorbed goddess. Wow, your life is SO hard. Also there was a UGH, NOPE twist at the end that caused me to not finish the last bit. And also, some egregious ick and violence from the god world. Less than Ariadne (the gory part is just unbelievably violence voyeurism or something) which I very quickly put down. I just can’t justify reading gratuitous graphic violence and sexual choices in such mediocre form. I mean the myths are part of culture and yes, stuff happens (one of my professors said the gods had sex with everything, people, animals, plants), but these are grand stories, part of ancient culture, part of the world’s heritage. And I don’t recall such level of gruesome, wallowing vicarious detail. While the original myths add to culture, such muck in mediocre writing subtracts from self, I guess I’m saying. It’s hard to explain how to draw my lines morally and artistically, but I think that is what it is.

The Coming Storm by Regina M. Hansen. Thriller/horror (not too bad or else I’d not have read). Again, I was left thinking, how did this benefit me? It wasn’t a clean happy bit of light reading. And it is shallow fluff intellectually.

A Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine. Silly bit of fluff. I was trying to find something light, but not to this level.


  • Elizabeth

    I’m always impressed by how much reading everyone is getting done. Some of those are pretty hefty too. Hopefully you find some that are more suited to your taste.
    My favourite line of this post is hands down the ‘silly bit of fluff. I was trying to find something light, but not to this level.’ It’s so beautifully insulted and disappointed and I love everything about it.

  • Marian

    Hey, I’m glad to hear Dune was an easy read! I will probably end up watching the movie first at this rate, but I hope to read it someday.

    I appreciate your honest thoughts on Piranesi and Circe. I kept hearing glowing reviews about the latter, didn’t know there was so much vulgarity in it.

    Also would love to hear more about your thoughts on Berry.

    • Rachel Olivia

      I heard a lot about Circe too. I can’t remember actually language, I think there may have been bad language, it just the actions, attitudes, etc. And I didn’t find anything that was redeeming, not writing quality, not any nobility in the main character, nothing like that. And that is what I’d sort of received the impression would exist amidst all the rest.

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