Books I’ve read in August.
The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden
This was just as good as the first part of the trilogy. I was quickly absorbed once again in medieval Russia and the adventures of Vasya. The chyerti and the magic of Russia are very well described in this book, and the author clearly knows a lot about Russian folklore and culture, and the transition from ancient Paganism to Christianity. It’s heart-tending as the old ways fade, and with them, the land spirits. Although I thought that pagan ways survived a lot longer in Slavic countries, including Russia. I can’t wait till the third part of the trilogy comes out in paperback.
Next I finished off Tolkien’s The Book of Lost Tales, which I started reading in July.
Insurgent Empire, by Priyamvada Gopal
Then I started Priyamvada Gopal’s Insurgent Empire: anti colonial resistance and British dissent, which is awesome (but being a hardback, is difficult to read in bed). It’s so great to find books written by academics who write in a way that’s accessible to non-specialists in their subject but without talking down to their audience.
I’m relieved to know that there was an anti-imperialist discourse in Britain. There was domestic resistance to the enclosures and other land grabs, so one would hope that would have been extended to disapproval of land theft elsewhere in the world.
It’s also interesting (but not surprising to me) to hear that anti-imperialism in the UK was influenced by resistance from the colonized.
I am not surprised because I did a study of Rammohun Roy and the Brahmo Samaj which demonstrates the massive influence of Rammohun Roy’s ideas upon Unitarianism & Trascendentalism. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ideas were hugely inspired by Roy’s translation of the Upanishads into English.
I will do a proper review of this book when I’ve finished it.
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, by Drew Hayden Taylor
Then I read the very wonderful Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor. Set in Otter Lake First Nation, it’s the story of one family’s interaction with the Trickster. The bits about residential school and its effects are very well written, and the ingenious way that Sammy Aandeg resists the horror of residential school is amazing. The bits of the book about raccoons are brilliant, and also the convoluted nature of the politics of land claims. And I loved the characters so much, especially Wayne, who’s inventing an Indigenous martial art. But most of all, this book is charming, witty, and heartwarming. It would make a brilliant film. Highly recommended.
I tweeted to the author that I had bought his book, and he replied:
This is true. In fact, it’s the best trickster/raccoon/motorcycle/martial art book I’ve ever read. It’s awesome.
Also still reading and enjoying 21st century yokel by Tom Cox, which I started in May. His writing about landscape is outstanding and I love his quirky take on life. It also makes me miss England, as does the writing of Robert Macfarlane.
Gnomes by Wil Huygen and Rien Poortvliet
I loved this book as a kid whenever I saw it on other people’s coffee tables, so I was delighted to find a copy in a bookshop in Kitchener (Ontario). I was not disappointed. The illustrations are as exquisitely beautiful as I remembered and some of the ideas of how gnomes hide from humans and feed and clothe themselves are quite ingenious. I wonder what LGBT+ gnomes, feminist gnomes, and gender-variant gnomes do, since their society seems very defined by the gender binary, but other than that, the gnome lifestyle and rapport with Nature is enviable. I also appreciated the section at the end exhorting humans to be kinder and less destructive of the planet and ecosystems. I also liked the bit about Mozart.