Gathering Moss (CBR11 #29)

Image result for gathering moss book

I like doing reading challenges because they give me an excuse to dig deeply through my expansive to read list (668 and counting) or give me a reason to add more diverse books to that list. Native and indigenous writers are underrepresented on my to read pile as are books about nature. Read Women this year has tasks for both, so off I went to find more books. Having some success last year with Rain: a Natural and Cultural History when I stumbled across Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Gathering Moss: a Natural and Cultural History I thought I had it made.

Kimmerer writes in this slim volume about moss as the research scientist she is, with all the Latin jargon and botanical details you might expect.  She also weaves into the book a host of details from her daily life as a mother and traveler and reflections on heritage, parenthood, life – digging into herself to reflect it back out to the world. What that combined effort gives the reader is a window into her natural philosophy. Gathering Moss probably won’t teach you to identify any mosses (there’s a handful of line illustrations of different mosses, but no tips for ID) but this collection of essays will give you a view into the author’s research and methodologies on moss ecology and Kimmerer as a person. Truly, it was this holistic approach to the writing that I enjoyed and kept me from giving up on the book.

You see, I am not the audience for this book and found myself drifting off during each of the relatively short chapters. Turn out, I had misremembered my experiences with Rain last year, I had struggled similarly. The best thing I have to say about Gathering Moss is that since reading it I have been paying far closer attention to the mosses living unobtrusively around me. I could read Chapter 2, “Learning to See”, again happily,  but the rest of the book really wasn’t what I was looking for.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (CBR8 #52 – Cannonball!)

Alexie cover

Normally I have my Cannonball book picked out in advance. I know what my goal book is for the big reviews. 2016 hasn’t really worked out that way, so as I was packing my bags for a quick 48-hour trip to visit my family I had just finished book 51 and knew the next one would be *the* cannonball book. I of course grabbed Cannonball Book Club’s pick, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.

Can I just say that you all rocked this choice? It was great.

It’s my policy to do pretty vague/non-spoiler reviews of book club choices. Know that I really loved this book and it made my nearly 5-hour flight delay bearable (I probably finished this book in three hours).  Junior is great, Alexie writes him with such clarity, honesty, and truth. And in turn, Junior is able to relate a year in the life to us in precise, genuine, and emotional ways that suck you in. Also, it includes one of my favorite things… a list of favorite books (even if I worry about Junior’s taste).

alexie book list

Here’s a summary for those of you still on the fence: Sherman Alexie tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the rez to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, based on the author’s own experiences, coupled with poignant drawings by Ellen Forney chronicles the contemporary adolescence of one Native American boy as he attempts to break away from one life and replace it with another.

The discussion topics and reminder post will go up later this week and we’ll meet over at Cannonball Read on September 1 to chat about the book.

This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.