Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Wet and Aggressive Corella challenges Magpie

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Best Reads 2015

I am joining John Wiswell from The Bathroom Monologues in a blog hop about our favourite reads of 2015.  Not necessarily published in 2015, just books we first read this year which for one reason or another we loved.

Regular visitors here will know that I read a lot.  And, as my side-bar will attest, I read quite a wide variety of things.  Some of the books I have read this year have been gems which will stay in my head and heart.  Others?  Suffice it to say they went to the recycle bin.

I read for entertainment, to educate myself, for distraction, to escape and for comfort.  And there is probably a book for any occasion lurking somewhere in this house.  Which doesn't stop me succumbing to temptation and getting more.

I find it hard to define a 'best book'.  One I will reread?  One I read for fun/escape and thoroughly enjoyed?  One I learnt from?  I suspect all of those definitions work for me.  Some of my best books for the year are 'literature' and some are not.  And I don't give a rat's fundament. 

In no particular order some of my best reads for the year are listed below. If I have already blogged about a book it isn't featured again.  Clicking on the photos will embiggen them, and give you more detail about the titles and authors.



Barbara Kingsolver is an author whose work I read and reread.  Fiction or non-fiction, it doesn't matter, though PoisonWood Bible, which is perhaps her best known work, is not one of my favourites.  Somehow this one, first published in 1991, had escaped me until last year.  Yet again, it is a rich and textured examination of the difficulties (and the joys) of familial relationships.



Beatrix Potter was a big part of my childhood and I am obsessed with gardens.  Unsurprisingly when the skinny one saw this he snatched it up for me.  Marta McDowell explored Beatrix Potter's development as a gardener, and mapped a year in her gardens, showing what she was growing.  Lots of the plants she grew are now considered 'old-fashioned' and grow in my garden.  Beatrix Potter was interested in plants as a child, drew them skilfully (and they often feature in her books) and in adult life could probably be described as an obsessional gardener.  A woman after my own heart. 


Neil Gaiman is another author I regularly turn to.  An incredibly varied author.  Bizarre, complicated, dark, hilarious - and often in the same piece of work.  His voice is just so varied...
Anansi Boys was, mostly, fun though it had its dark moments.  What do you do if you discover that your father (who you are estranged from) was Anansi the trickster spider god.  And, with his death your life is going to change.  Dramatically. 
It is also a story about love.  And perhaps a subtle warning to think twice before killing spiders...

And for something completely different, a snippet from Gaiman's Fragile Things, a collection of short stories I am reading at the moment.
This paragraph opens a story called Bitter Grounds.

'In every way that counted, I was dead.  Inside somewhere maybe I was screaming and weeping and howling like an animal, but that was another person deep inside, another person who had no access to the face and lips and mouth and head, so on the surface I just shrugged and smiled and kept moving.  If I could have physically passed away, just let it all go, like that, without doing anything, stepped out of life as easily as walking through a door, I would have done.  But I was going to sleep at night and waking in the morning, disappointed to be there and resigned to existence.'

 I can't think of a more powerful expression of the desolation of loss.  Mind you, the story turns in totally unexpected directions after that opening...





Jeffrey Brown's drawings perfectly capture the supple beauty and charm of cats.  And yes, I am a cat lover.  He also captures some of their less endearing foibles with equal skill, as the drawing below clearly illustrates.  My much loved moggies spread the kitty litter considerable distances.  Drat them.




The final book I am featuring as a best read wasn't an 'easy read', but was fascinating.  Lenoard Shlain took us on a tour of Leonardo da Vinci's incredible life of creativity, artistry and inventiveness using a multi-disciplinary approach including history, art, neuroscience and psychology.  Most of us are predominantly left or right brain thinkers.  If Shlain was right, which I believe he was, da Vinci was equally comfortable with either side of his brain, and used both to his, and our, benefit.  
Sadly, and more than a little ironically, Shlain died from brain cancer just as he finished this book.

Come and visit John, and see what have delighted him and the other participants.  And be tempted.  As I will.










151 comments:

  1. Neil Gaiman is one of my all-time favorites. I have an entire shelf dedicated to his books.

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    1. L.G Keltner: He is good isn't he? Very, very good.

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  2. I'm in awe of the breadth of your interests.

    I'm glad I fit in :O)

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    1. Author R. Mac Wheeler: Of course you fit in. And have taken me on some incredible romps.

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  3. Anansi Boys is probably my favorite of Gaiman's novels. It made the world building of American Gods feel more personal, and has his best deftness with humor.

    Is Cat Getting Out of a Bag a real book? Because that looks so adorable I want to pick it up immediately.

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    1. John Wiswell: Anansi Boys is right up there in my list of his books too.
      Cat Getting Out of a Bag is most definitely real. Published by Chronicle Books San Francisco, copyright to the author 2007.

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    2. Sweet! Checking out my local library.

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    3. John Wiswell: I hope you find it.

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  4. Oh Child, thank you for these snippets from the books you have/are reading. I am still trying to find out who recommended CIDER WITH ROSIE. I am about to finish it and have enjoyed the descriptive style of writing and the era in which it was written. I have my list I take with me to Barnes and Noble. I like the books instead of kindle ebooks.

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    1. donna baker: I much prefer 'real' books too. I read ebooks because some authors don't publish any other way, but the weight, the scent, the texture of a book are very dear to me.

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  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Steve Finnell: I do believe in evolution and my blog is NOT the place for you to spread your religious prejudices.

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  6. I like the different reasons that you listed for reading. Very cool. Do you like digital books? We have a an e-reader and I like it for some things, but mostly, I still by real books.

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    1. The Happy Whisk: Real books. Digital if I have to, hard copies for preference.

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    2. Oh yeah, hard copies for me too. Just something so lovely about them. Got a few for Christmas, all books about whole foods, health, baking, digestion and all that fun stuff that I enjoy reading about.

      Back to my lab ... got a new bread going with lots of new dishes, to boot.

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    3. The Happy Whisk: Happy baking. I am looking forward to seeing the results.

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    4. Just pulled another batch out of the oven and it's cooling so I sat down with a cuppa tea.

      Yum.

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  7. Replies
    1. Bob Bushell: Thank you for stopping in. I know books are difficult for you now, and you really didn't need to visit this very booky post.

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    2. Bob Bushell: I know - and I really appreciate it. Happy 2016

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  8. Thank you for the lovely variety of reading suggestions!!

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    1. fishducky: Always happy to spread bookie love/lust.

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  9. I have that Barbara Kingsolver book in my To Read pile. Which I will, someday soon.

    The cat drawing was ALL TOO FAMILIAR. Good thing they're so cute!

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    1. Ms. CrankyPants: She is good. Very good. And yes, kitty litter all through the house is familiar to too many of us. Kitty litter between the toes is not fun.

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    1. Martin Kloess: Thank you. I hope you will visit John and some of the other people playing today.

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  11. I can't recall if I've read Neil Gaiman books, will have to make sure I do now. I read Poisonwood Bible a long time ago. Will have to try this book you recommend of hers. Thank you!

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    1. Strayer: I *think* Prodigal Summer is one of my favourite of her fiction work. Her essays are excellent too. She doesn't talk either - she tries to live ethically as well.

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  12. Many of your words could have come right out of my mouth. I like Barbara K too. Interested in B. Potter but never heard of this one. Might like it. I don't need to tell you to keep reading! May 2016 have even more books for you!!!

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    1. Bookie: I read every day. Something. It is a compulsion I am making no attempt to address. I have read other biographies of Beatrix Potter, but this added some new facts and a wider dimension.

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  13. We learn so much from what a person reads, I think. Although I have stopped reading novels, for the most part, I do enjoy memoirs. I liked the book, No Bad Day, by Hamilton Jordan, who was part of Jimmy Carter's administration. But I am reading some others on Kindle right now that I like.

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    1. Glenda C. Beall: There is very little I won't read. Novels are a regular part of my reading, but I also love memoirs, diaries, collected letters, biographies... I happily read from most genres too. And thoroughly enjoy children's literature as well. Which will probably tell you that I am curious - and greedy.

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  14. That gardening book by Beautrix potter looks mighty good.
    Merle....................

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    1. Merlesworld: It is about her rather than by her, but it is good. Very good.

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  15. Leonardo's Brain is one I would add to my reading list. Thank you EC.

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    1. carol: It was slow going because I had to stop and think about it often but very, very rewarding.

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  16. Thank you for the heads up on your favorites. I am always looking for a new book to read.

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    1. Anne in the kitchen: So many books, so little time...

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  17. Oh boy! Some new books for me to read. I read that Kingsolver book long ago and loved it, but all the others are new for me. Thank you!! :-)

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    1. DJan: Barbara Kingsolver is a gem isn't she?

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  18. Yup. That's exactly what my cats do. And I'm not talking about the bag.

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    1. mshatch: I think it is true of many of the little dears. As true as their fondness for bags and boxes.

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  19. An interesting read of interesting reads you have read that I feel I must read.

    Thanks, EC. :)

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  20. Amansi Boys: Fantastic book. Neil Gaiman is one of my favourite authors ever. Thank you for these reviews, EC.
    My Christmas present to myself is a kitten - a little ginger and white female. She is coming from the SPCA, and has not yet reached the target weight to be neutered, but I hope to bring her home within a week or so - they won't allow you to take a kitten if it isn't neutered, which is a very good thing in my opinion. We haven't had a cat since Sophie took herself off to pastures greener last Christmas, so I am looking forward to getting her very much.

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    1. Alexia: A new kitten? How lovely. I like that you can't have a cat unless it can no longer breed and I hope she is with you sooner rather than later. A house without a cat is not a home for me. I am looking forward to seeing photos when she gets home to you.
      Neil Gaiman has won a lot of hearts hasn't he? And there is a new Aaronovitch due (overdue) too. Bliss.

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  21. You have such interesting books here. They all sound intriguing.

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    1. Mason Canyon: You frequently wave temptation in my weak-willed way.

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  22. Those books look interesting. I'm not a great reader mainly because once I start, I won't put the book down and just absolutely nothing gets done. I don't even fall asleep, I stay awake until I've finished. Best I don't start.

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    1. Margaret-whiteangel: I read every day, and will admit to neglecting some tasks. Some books keep me awake too. And I don't care. Much.

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  23. I always enjoy your reviews, EC; they're very helpful. Pretty sure I'd enjoy - at the least - the cat book and the one on Da Vinci. Happy reading - whatever you are into at the moment!

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    1. jenny_o: Very different books, but I thoroughly enjoyed both. Two books on the go at the moment. And yes, I am enjoying them too.

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  24. Beatrix Potter. I've seen the movie about her. Interesting woman.


    Happy New Year!

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    1. Lux G.: She was a fascinating woman, and became an early conservationist. As well as a talented artist, writer and gardener.

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  25. The da Vinci book sounds fascinating.

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  26. I started reading this hours ago, then someone knocked on my door, then I cooked dinner, washed up, cleaned out the fridge; finally I'm back!
    I read The Poisonwood Bible after reading quite a few blogs where everyone raved about it. IOt was an okay read, but not something I'd keep and read over and over.
    My favourite read from 2015 was A Discovery of Witches, by Deborah Harkness, I loved it so much I bought the sequel and then book three once I discovered it was a trilogy. Sadly, I've yet to read books 2&3. I'm going to have to start again with book one. I've been far too involved with my kindle and only recently started reading 'real' books again.

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  27. IOt?? What the heck is that 'O' doing in there??
    (*~*)how embarrassing........

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    1. River: I put those abberrations down to dyslexic fingers. Something I suffer from a lot. I don't know A Discovery of Witches. I will have to explore further. Later.
      A PoisonWood Bible is, as I said, not one of my favourites of hers.

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    2. It's a trilogy:
      book one: A Discovery of Witches
      book two: Shadow of Night
      book three: The Book of Life

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    3. River: Thank you. I really shouldn't explore new books and authors till I whittle my pile down - but I will.

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  28. And WHY do cats scratch on the outside of the litter box anyway? I think it's for the added noise factor. ;) You are my reading hero. I wish I had the patience to devour so many books.

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    1. River Fairchild: What you call patience others would call greed. Mixed with endless curiosity. And yes, ours do enjoy the noise factor. Jazz can throw the litter considerable distances. From out his closed litter box across the floor and into the bath. Where it also makes a noise. Quiet as a cat? Hah. Only when it suits.

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  29. While the others look fascinating, I'll like to peruse Jeffrey's Brown's illustrated mischief. Looks delightfully fun.
    Hugs and high hopes for a new and better year.

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  30. It is always good to see what others are reading. It may broaden my own reading. Thanks!

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    1. Jono: It is good to see what others are reading, and always incites my greed for more. Eyes bigger than my stomach.

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  31. Thanks for the list!
    CAT Getting Out of Bag. LOVE IT!!!
    Just watched Beatrix Potter life-story. FABULOUS. WOW, I didn't know all of those things about her.

    HAPPY 2016. Many kiss for you & Kitties. xxx

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    1. My Inner Chick: I haven't seen the movie, but have read several biographies. Oppression, tragedy and triumph. An amazing woman.
      Hugs to you too. Always.

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  32. Hi EC - gosh I might join in this bloghop ... I have yet to get into Neil Gaiman, Anansi - I only know Bish Denham's book Anansi and Company: Untold Jamaican Tales ... well worth a read.

    Your Beatrix Potter interests me ... as too Leonardo's Brain ... great selection ... cheers and Happy New Year if I don't get here again before Thursday - Hilary

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    1. Hilary Melton-Butcher: It is a great blog hop. Reading is such a subjective and individual thing. Untold Jamaican Tales sounds right up my very broad alley.
      And a Happy New Year to you too. Very happy.

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  33. Ah, Barbara Kingsolver! I loved her book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". One of my all-time favorites. Happy New Year!

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    1. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of my all time favourites too. The year I discovered it I undoubtedly bored people to sobs with it - and gave it to a LOT of people as well.

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  34. Love B. Kingsolver. Poisonwood Bible was my favorite but I did enjoy her other books especially The Lacuna. I saw the Beatrix Potter movie too. Many things in English gardens won't survive in our mid summer heat.

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    1. Sue in Italia/In the Land of Cancer: Which English plants survive our heat but not yours? I too love Barbara Kingsolver but prefer most of her other work to the two you mentioned. Such an individual thing reading tastes isn't it?

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    2. Scented night stock comes to mind. A Welsh blogging buddy swore by it but it likes the damp, cool Welsh summers. Maybe it does get as hot and dry where you live as here but England and Wales seem to be cooler. Also pansies die here once it gets into the 80s. On my bike ride up in Northern Michigan, I saw many flowers doing well in the relative cool that would suffer downstate where I live. Alliums come to mind.

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    3. Sue in Italia/In the Land of Cancer: I have given up on pansies and petunias and snapdragons. They need more water than I can give them. It is always sad when things won't grow, but generally there are compensations in the things that will. Which doesn't stop my wistful thoughts...

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  35. Leonardo's Brain is definitely going on my list! A few years ago a local museum had an installation of some of Leonardo's inventions brought to life, including a wooden "armored" tank.
    Happy New Year!

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    1. Li: It is an incredible work. As was Leonardo's brain. An incredible breadth of interest and corresponding skill...

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  36. Leonardo is fascinating. And the cat book looks fun.

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    1. Sandra Cox: You are right. On both counts. And I believe that most of us neglect fun...

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  37. That cat book looks hilarious! My old cat always did what we called "symbolic" covering, where she would make digging motions all around the box but not in it.

    Leonardo's brain sounds fascinating, although I've read often that the left/right brain thing is over-rated.

    Thank you for all the reviews and Happy New Year!

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    1. Katherine Hajer: Symbolic covering is familiar here too. Particularly if the offering is truly vile.
      Leonardo was certainly able to access more of his brain than most of us, and the exploration was fascinating indeed.
      A happy New Year to you too.

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  38. I haven't read any of these, but I loved learning about them. Neil Gaiman is one of my favorites, so I will definitely have to pick that book up. :) So many great reads. Thanks for sharing!
    ~Jess

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    1. DMS ~ Jess: Isn't it wonderful just how many books there are? So many. So very many.

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  39. Haven't read any of these so thank you for the tips!

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  40. Thank you for the tips, I'll keep an eye out for these! That cat book looks charming.

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    1. Claire: The cat book IS charming. He obviously knows and loves the contrary beasts.

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  41. A lot of writers are passionate gardeners. Gardens and flowers often figure in Nora Roberts' stories.

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    1. Sandra Cox: A lot of writers seem to be owned by cats too. So I have some of the prerequisistes...

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  42. I loved Animal Dreams. I like so many of Barbara Kingsolver's books. I was glad to see these other titles, as I'm always on the lookout for a good read. Thanks for the share.

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    1. Elizabeth Varadan, Author: I like many of her books too. Perhaps the non-fiction ones marginally more. But only marginally.

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  43. I didn't know Beatrix Potter wrote a gardening book. That was a good find.

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    1. mail4rosey: She didn't (but could have done). This is a very specialised biography of her, and was a very good find.

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  44. Replies
    1. orvokki: And a very happy New Year to you and yours too.

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  45. Some fine reads you have listed...I have been wanting to read the Beatrix potter book.

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    1. Donna@LivingFromHappiness: It you get the chance, do so. It is a gardeners dream...

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  46. Happy New year old bean , hoping 2016 will be a cracker xxxxxxx

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    1. John Gray: And to you and your large family. Feathered, furred and all.

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  47. I just love Beatrix Potter EC. Loved the post and I am literally flying by to wish you all things good and happy for the coming new year. Take good care. R.x

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    1. Rose ~ from Oz: And to you. I hope the love and laughter continues.

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  48. I adore Barbara Kingsolver's books - Animal Dreams is wonderful.

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    1. Lynn: She is excellent isn't she? And we must be about due another one...

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  49. Awww poor kitty, I saw a cat run off with a steak when I was about 10 years old. The owner was mad as hell but she got it back, cleaned it and popped it in the stew! XD True story. Happy New Year my friend.

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    1. Spacerguy: And a very Happy New Year to you and yours. Poor kitty nothing. This house is ruled by felines with iron paws... And they wouldn't have given the steak back either.

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  50. All of them sound good, but I haven't read any.

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    1. Sonia Lal: So many books, so little time.

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  51. I loved this share!
    Especially interested in the Beatrix Potter gardening book, but all of them wonderful to discover from your
    perspective. Thank you!
    A most beautiful new beginning of it to you,
    friend. May this next jaunt around the sun be your sweetest so far:)
    -Jennifer

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    1. Jennifer Richardson: I love your word for the year, and am excited to see where it takes you. The Beatrix Potter gardening book was a gem. I loved her stories, and would love her gardens as much, if not more.

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  52. I like your selections here.
    And, wouldn't mind keeping an eye out for this one about Beatrix Potter's garden.
    Peter Rabbit always had a special place in my heart, and I think that many, many years later, the influence of Miss Potter's illustrations are taking effect on me :)
    How I WISH I could visit Hill Top...

    And, Mr Gaiman always gets my vote - I love to read his books curled up in winter. Seems right for me somehow.

    I hope all's well with you, dear EC, on this first day in January. A bright new year begins...
    Hugs xx

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    1. Vicki: Peter Rabbit and the Bad Fierce Rabbit and Jemima Puddleduck and Mr Todd are all a part of me. Still. And yes, Hill Top would be a blissful place to visit.
      Neil Gaiman is one of my heroes. For who he is, as well as what he rights.
      Hugs right back to you dear Vicki, I hope this year is full of wonderful surprises.

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    2. As well as what he writes. Goodness I am an idiot.

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    3. No, not an idiot... just tired. I usually blame my brian, or should that be, brain for not keeping up with my fingers. Which is often when I type, heh heh.

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    4. Vicki: Dsylexic fingers. And lousy proofreading...

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  53. Happy New Year 2016! Neil Gaiman is one of my favourites always...and Shlain's book sounds fascinating! Going to add these to my tbr...what a good way to start off the year, thank you.

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    1. Nilanjana Bose: Neil Gaiman (deservedly) has a lot of fans. And the Shlain book WAS fascinating. I was put on to it by another blogger and very, very grateful.

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  54. I was thinking of writing about m,y favorite reads in 2015 as well. "Animal Dreams" is one of my favorite books - I've read and re-read it and every time I enjoy it so much. Barbara Kingsolver certainly has a way with words that just speaks to me. Another favorite one of hers is "Lacuna" - splendid!

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    1. Carola Bartz: Have you read any of her non-fiction? I think her essays would speak loudly to you too?

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  55. Well, I have promised myself to visit the website of Elephant's Child for quite some time as I have enjoyed your very pertinent comments on Ron Dudley's wonderful blog "Feathered Photography". Of course, being the lazy procrastinator I am, I've delayed doing so - until today.

    I should have dropped by sooner.

    You immediately answered my most pressing question of the New Year: "Whatever shall I read next?" Alakazam! You have provided a plethora of new material, reminded me of favorite authors and simply stimulated me to get busy reading.

    Thank you.

    I shall return.

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    1. Wally Jones: Welcome and thank you. Ron's blog is a delight isn't it? Beauty and education. And fun.
      Reading is an addiction of mine. A big addiction. I have to ask? Which or this eclectic collection came from favoured authors?
      I will be over to visit you shortly.

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  56. While I am by no means a gardener, my face lit up when I saw the book about Beatrix Potter ...because she is still one of my favorite childhood authors.

    Thanks for sharing your list, and you are definitely an eclectic reader, E.C. !!

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    1. Mark Koopmans: Eclectic is what I say I am when I am feeling posh. Greedy is closer to the mark.
      And yes to Beatrix Potter. Always. And Roald Dahl. And Kipling's Just So Stories...

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  57. Agog at your magnet-filled fridge door!! Must read Gaiman's short stories when I finish one of Tobias Wolff's volumes. Have read several of B. Kingsolvers and enjoyed them. Happy 2016.

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    1. Patricia A. Laster: The fridge is a reflection of my obsession nature. And fridge magnets make easy gifts.
      I am enjoying Gaiman's short stories though a very dark one rocked me on my heels.
      A healthy, happy year to you and yours.

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  58. Happy New Year my friend and may 2016 bring you happiness which I am pretty sure that means more and more books or would it be frig magnets?

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    1. Sonya Ann: Definitely books. I got a nice haul for Christmas and have a birthday this month.
      A very happy New Year to you too. How's the hangover? Gone? I hope so.

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  59. Wondering if you have read 'One Big Damn Puzzler' by John Harding. Was dusting my bookshelf last night...

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    1. River: I don't know the book or the author. Dusting? Oh dear. Something I should be doing...

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  60. I've read Ananasi Boys and enjoyed it as much as his others, though American Gods is my favourite to date. I haven't read those short stories though, so will buy that, as short things suit me just now. The Leonardo one looks good too!

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    1. All Consuming: I haven't (yet) read American Gods. With two recommendations this post I can see I will have to. Soon. Ish.

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  61. Oh Wow you have listed some great reads. I must have the Beatrix Potter one. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year EC!

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    1. Grannie Annie: The Beatrix Potter book was a win on so many levels. It gave more information about a fascinating woman who wrote books which are now a part of me - and the gardening was a joy too.

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  62. For whatever reason, I couldn't do a reply to our gardens and cats conversation, but you are so 'write'. A cat is a definite prereq for many authors, so get going.....:)

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    1. Sandra Cox: I wonder whether it is the cats, the familiars as it were, who are doing the writing. And mine are lazy moggies...

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  63. I like and share in your excellent reads, and it's off to the library again for me! You've reminded me of what's been missing. hehehe! The cat and bag book is something I see a lot of around here, in real life! I hope your beginning to another new year is blissfully happy!

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    1. Karen S: The library is a wonderful place isn't it?
      The new year is opening gently and well. As I hope yours is too.

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  64. I love reading your reviews- helps me to decide if I want to seek this one or that one out. I, too, have books for just about every mood, and I do re-read a large majority of the ones I have kept over the years. Happy New Year!

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    1. Terri @ Coloring Outside the Lines: You have no idea how often I have to retype your blog monicker. My fingers put the u in Coloring every time.
      Yay for rereading. Some books I have read so often I can recite great slabs of them.

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  65. I love Neil Gaiman and the cat in a bag book!

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    1. Riot Kitty: Neil Gaiman is one of my heroes - and the cat in the bag book was so very obviously drawn (and bloody well) by someone who knew cats.

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  66. I just wandered by to read your response to my comment but couldn't find my comment, very strange. But in the time lapse your interest in gardens has made me wonder what you think of Edna Walling's work.

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    1. Kim: I religiously went through looking for your comment and couldn't find it. Blogger having a hissy fit? Edna Wallings gardens are wonderful things. She really was a visionary person and I would have loved to have sat down for a cuppa and a wander through the garden with her...

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  67. Anansi. We all grew up with tales about him. My thoughts about him are too complicated to write in one go...trickster, folk hero.

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    1. neena maiya (guyana gyal): I didn't grow up knowing anything about Anansi. Loki, and the Coyote but not Anansi. Sometime, when you can, I would love to hear more about him from you.

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