Next Books & Sources

Books are one thing I don’t feel too guilty about buying. After all, each one is like a Vulcan Mind Meld.

After my last post about book discovery on Sheperd.com, I decided to keep track of the other sources I use to find them.

Since my year usually begins with the Sierra Writers Conference, it’s a good bet that multiple reads will come from that source. Other recent ones include Bluesky (social), YouTube book reviews, and ‘like’ research on Amazon.

When you see and hear authors talking about their work, their enthusiasm rubs off. These first two books are by authors I watched in Zoom presentations during the 2024 Sierra Writers Conference.

Climate Change | Sea Level Rise | California Homeowners

In California Against the Sea, Rosanna’s coverage of climate change, sea level rise, and resilience/adaptation in the cities along the California coast is carefully considered and compassionate. Her writing is clear and the material is not too emotionally overwhelming. As I was reading, I wished this book was also NOVA series.

Rosanna begins her California story at the Mexican border and works her way
North. Having visited and vacationed in many, it’s easy to envision each place. The fresh perspective I gained is what it’s like to be a permanent resident with the ocean constantly eroding your roads and property lines. What happens if your city condemns your home, or your insurance company stops coverage?

[Watch “Pacifica fly over video” in resources below.]

Living in California’s forests, we have different issues – wildfire and
smoke – but the questions are the same. As a society, we can’t keep
turning away from change brought on extreme weather.

In city, county, state, and national governance, we must match desired
behaviors (moving or not allowing new building in frought places) with
incentives to act.

Animals | Night | Photography

Nocturnalia  – When Charles Hood described wrap-around model lighting used to highlight animals active at night, I was already ordering his book! (Hood is a wildlife photographer). I was also intrigued when he said that California has over a hundred bat species…something I’ve not had much luck researching.

Book quote: “Bats! Are! Great!” The first photograph for this chapter is a stunning image of a bat in flight taking a sip from a pond with sharp splash droplets and a mirror image of the animal reflected in the water.

The humor and enthusiasm Hood uses to tell his stories are easily detectable
in his writing. His book will make you smile.

The images and descriptions are big book, hard bound, coffee table quality
but are packaged in a soft-cover compact package at a reasonable price. For
animal lovers, explorers, photographers, and naturalists, it’s a book they’ll
appreciate.

The next two titles were Blue Sky recommendations. Bluesky is a Twitter spin-off from when it was fun. The new platform has a nice vibe (so far). Connecting with academics, naturalists, and photographers, especially folks who enjoy posting pictures of #moss is great.

The Modern Bestiary by Joanna Bagniewska.
This book is entertaining and has cool graphics. It has quirky information about weird animals and is written in short segments. 

The first animal I read about was the Atlantic horseshoe crab. The bleeding industry, which Bagniewska mentions, first came to my attention in a news article with a graphic photo showing how this is done. In a media environment saturated with war and human despair, the picture of the crabs strapped in with tubes sucking out their blue blood took my breath away and had me reaching for a tissue. I still don’t fully understand my strong visceral reaction, but an affection for ‘ugly’ animals is here to stay.

If you have an animal or trivia lover, or a zoology student in your life, The
Modern Bestiary
would make a lovely gift. (If I were the gift giver, I’d pair Nocturnalia and The Modern Bestiary together.)

Hard Science Fiction | More Animals |Apocalypse

Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky was a recommended read by Jay, CEO of Blue Sky. Her comment about characters based on octopi sold me. It’s a long book, the first of three. Normally, I steer clear of science fiction because it’s difficult to imagine off-world settings.

When my husband, who has an extensive science fiction library, saw me reading it, he stopped in his tracks saying, “We already have that e-book series, and why
are you reading it?”

My reply, “I don’t care about the human characters, but I’m loving
the (jumping) spider civilization.”

Tchaikovsky’s description of what drove humanity into space is bleak, but
also fitting for today, even though he wrote and published it before 2015.

Romance | Entertainment | Light Reading | Historical Fiction

I discovered The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston from YouTube book reviewer, gabbyreads. Since I also enjoyed We Spread by Ian Reid, I took Gabby’s recommendation for The Dead Romantics.

Dead Romantics is something light and easy to counterbalance some of the heavier topics I choose. Anything with ghosts and romance, published by an imprint of Penguin Random House is bound to be a winner.

Finally, Amazon. Sigh. It’s a market dominator for a reason…

A perk of being a supporting member of Shepherd.com, is a book launch program. A participation requirement is to submit ten author names with books ‘like’ yours. While doing this research, I discovered two more titles that I’ll keep in my library (a pile next to my bed) ready to read when the next ‘hole’ appears.

My historical fiction novel, Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel is quietly rolling out. Once it appears in the Amazon system, I will send it to the launch program.

A Girl Called Samson by Amy Harmon  – an indentured servant in Massachusetts disguises herself as a man and joins the Continental Army.

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi – Set in the 1950s in India, a young woman escapes an abusive marriage and begins working as a henna artist for the upper class. Keeping secrets is a must.

Seven new books before February ends is satisfying!

Happy 2024 reading to one and all.

Resources

Article Authors on Bluesky

[California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline]
Rosanna Xia
@rosannaxia.bsky.social
https://bsky.app/profile/rosannaxia.bsky.social

[The Modern Bestiary]
Joanna Bagniewska
@joannabagniewska.com
https://bsky.app/profile/joannabagniewska

[Children of Time]
Adrian Tchaikovsky
@aptshadow.bsky.social
https://bsky.app/profile/aptshadow.bsky.social

Jay, CEO of Bluesky
@jay.bsky.team
https://bsky.app/profile/jay.bsky.team

[The Dead Romantics]
Ashley Poston
@ashleyposton.bsky.social
https://bsky.app/profile/ashleyposton.bsky.social

[Crossing: A Chinese Family Railroad Novel]
Lisa Redfern
@lisaredfern.bsky.social
https://bsky.app/profile/lisaredfern.bsky.social

 

Shepherd is a FUN Book Discovery Website

Last year, I got a detailed e-mail that I thought was probably spam. Since I wasn’t completely sure, I asked my husband – a seasoned Silicon Valley veteran – to have a look.

He said, “It’s not spam. They’re building something.”

Once Ben Fox, the architect of Shepherd (a non-faith-based book-finding website) got my attention, I started reading his updates about the newest progress with site construction.

It’s been a blast watching (and taking part in!) the site’s growth.

Shepherd keeps getting better and more FUN.

Because I know the books I’ve recommended are the best-of-the-best, I’ve read many titles on their reading lists, and I’ve also bought and read books that Fox and other Shepherd authors have recommended, I can say, with certainty, this website is a good source of quality books.

One of my recent, soothing activities has been creating this collection of animated backgrounds to play on my living room screen.

The Shepherd website reminds me of this. It is a cozy virtual space that feels like a bookshop filled with friends who are sophisticated readers.

History is Essential. Here’s Why.

by Gary Noy

Read the article.


Sierra Writers Conference (SWC) Website

(SWC) Pathfinders page with historical and
social justice recommended reads

© Gary Noy 2023
No part of Gary Noy‘s written or audio article may be reproduced without his express written consent.

The audio version of this article was produced with A.I.-generated voices.

Shepherd’s Best Reads of 2023

My most satisfying reads come as recommendations from friends and their book clubs.

As a supplement to the book pointers from friends, this website is one I’ve been checking out when there’s an open space in my reading queue. A recent feature is a massive book list, the result of asking 9,000+ authors to recommend their favorite reads of the year.

Reviewing the entire list, I can vouch for its quality. On it, are many titles and authors I’ve read and enjoy.

Ben Fox is the builder behind Shepherd (a non-religious book-finding website).

When describing books, Fox quotes Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, “What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

“When I look for a new book online, it feels soulless,” Fox says. “Online bookstores sell books like toothpaste or powdered gravy mix. Something about that is profoundly wrong.”

About his website, Fox says, “We give readers fun and unique ways to follow their curiosity down rabbit holes. Try our bookshelf on science fiction or life satisfaction. At every step, you can meet the person who recommended that book, the book list it came from, and what they are passionate about.”

 As we head into gifting season, the Shepherd website is worth a visit if book lovers are on your list.

Backtracking “If you build it, they will come.”

 There’s been a movie line running through my mind like an earworm since I finished Crossings: A Chinese Odyssey on Donner Summit. The line is, “If you build it, they will come.”

David Rumsey Map Collection, David Rumsey Map Center, Stanford Libraries

 I repurposed it from a baseball diamond in a cornfield to maps and roads; footpaths, wagon roads, sail and overland maps, railways, highways, and high-speed jets.

 

Humans really can move mountains if we put our attention to it as the recent article How the Transcontinental railroad forever transformed US points out.

The Chinese railroad story called to me because the marginalized people who accomplished this herculean task deserve to be known and recognized for their contributions.

The image above shows nineteenth-century political cartoonists poking at the railroad monopoly. It’s no joke that it, and many other of our systems, have become monstrous.

 The bigger issue I grapple with now is the systems we’ve established and how to backtrack from there. 

Those of us living in developed countries exist at an apex of technology and structures designed for easy living (and buying). But we are also at a point where most of us understand this way of living is not sustainable. 

Just this last year, we saw Congress avert economic devastation when the national railroad workers threatened to strike. Stronger-than-ever storms are shredding housing and infrastructure and in California, Earth-scorching firestorms and drought are constant worries.

Established infastructure is fragile and revealing weak spots.

A Barbara Kingsolver book I read recently provided an idea I’ve latched onto for backtracking some of my own contributions to Western culture’s ever-expanding quest for growth.


In the book, a middle-aged woman, Willa, grapples with dissatisfaction after a lifetime spent following the rules and doing what’s expected. Along with supporting adult children, a grandchild, and an aging parent, her historic home is falling to pieces around her.

 

Willa’s epiphany comes when she releases ‘American Dream’ ideas about family constructs, retirement security, and wealth. Once she does, the solution to her house problem becomes obvious. Not to reveal spoilers, but with Gen. Z guidance,  part of her land is repurposed to serve community needs.

In her book, Kingsolver demonstrates ways to reformulate ingrained expectations. She gives examples of how to reduce one’s lifetime footprint, leaving the world different and, hopefully, better. 

“If you build it, they will come,” happened with the railroad and other developed living, transportation, energy, judicial, and healthcare systems. Now we must work to change collective expectations and redesign the way we live on planet Earth.

Recommended Theme Reads – Baby Stealing, Water Ecosystems & Houseboat History

Theme-based reading recommendations; unknown aspects of American history, water ecosystems, and houseboats.

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours accomplishes something I relish while reading for pleasure – it taught me something. The story is about a Tenessee baby stealing ring, Depression-era shantyboat culture, and institutional mistreatment of children.

For me, the most intriguing storyline follows a riverboat family from the ‘before’ time. Descriptions of nature knowledge gained while living on the Mississippi River are lush and sensory. It reminded me of the next book on this list.

The heartbreak, terror, and powerlessness suffered by poor birth families taken advantage of while at their most vulnerable and children separated from loving parents, and further – siblings from each other – was worthy of the strong emotions it stirred.

This book strengthened my convictions about the support needed for defenseless populations and about prosecuting those who value money over humanity.

A Secret History of American River People


Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

The “Marsh Girl” is an enigma in the backwater settlement closest to Catherine’s (aka Kya) home.

Abandoned by her mother, siblings, and eventually, by her abusive alcoholic father, the youngster navigates on her own through her teen and young adult years. She becomes an avid self-taught naturalist who delves into life the cycles of the animals and plants in her South Carolina marsh environment.

‘Fear of other’ and class bias causes her neglectful community to turn against her when the son of a prominent family is found dead.

Where the Crawdads Sing will delight natural history readers while highlighting the social and emotional damage caused by indifference and loneliness.

‘Where The Crawdads Sing’ Author Delia Owens Has A Strange Connection To A Real-Life Murder Mystery


Floating Point by Shelley Buck

Shelley Buck’s contemporary memoir gives the reader a viewpoint of life on a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay Area.

You’ll never look at a marina quite the same.

Shelley is a dot.com spouse with a high school-aged son attending a financially challenged charter school. While developing her author career, she seeks out a creative housing solution in uber-expensive Silicon Valley. Her journey takes the reader into a fluid dock community, repairs and maintenance unique to houseboats, and waterfront real estate under constant pressure from developers.

Buck’s canine-loving and nature appreciating observations intermingle with poetic narratives and moments of anxiety as she navigates through her soon-to-be empty nest and approaching retirement years.

If your reading mood calls for nature and water and you’ve got emotional reserves to explore traumatic children’s issues, Before We Were Yours and Where Crawdads Sing are great choices. If you want an uplifting family saga fraught with kids, pets, and mechanical challenges, Floating Point should hit the mark.

Best Wishes for Compelling Reading!

For ten more book recommendations from a historical fiction author/ reader, visit World of Mailman.

Hashtags

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