A couple of years ago I had this grand plan where I was going to read an essay a week and write about it. I made it through just over half the year before I began wavering and gave it up, though I have often thought of revamping that project. A couple of years previous to that I read a short story a week and made it through the entire year and was quite pleased with myself. Not only because I persevered with one of my reading projects, but I discovered how much I loved reading short stories. I read at least fifty-two stories (and probably more since some weeks I wrote about more than one story). Maybe I should revamp that project!
In the short term I'll stick with my weekly mythology reading, since I am so close to finishing, but I've been contemplating what I should follow it up with. It's amazing how much you can accomplish by setting a task for yourself to read and write about a subject or genre or form of writing. Even if the writing isn't particularly (in my case anyway) critical, but more a rehash of what I read and what I learned from it or experienced by reading it. Or just a reflection of what I read.
I am going somewhere with all this, and it's not more reading plans, though it's good to think about where I've gone this year and where I want to go with my reading. The thing about essays is I found I really like nature writing. Some of the best essays I read were by nature writers like Loren Eiseley, Rachel Carson or Gretel Ehrlich. My diary reading, which got off to such a great start earlier this year, has slowed down considerably over the summer. I had been reading the first of Frances Patridge's WWII diaries, and while it was interesting there were lots of references to people and events with which I didn't have any familiarity. I sort of lost the thread and so set it aside. I can't remember what I picked up next, but again it was the wrong book for the wrong mood and moment, but then my eye was caught by Roger Deakin's Notes from Walnut Tree Farm. A good way to combine two interests--diaries and also nature writing.
Notes from Walnut Tree Farm is really delightful reading. The entries are arranged by month and each is really just a snippet--an observation or meditation or an impression of Deakin's life and the natural world around him on his farm in Sussex. It's the perfect book to dip into just before bedtime as the passages are often short. I came across one that I particularly enjoyed and think you'll appreciate, too, so wanted to share it here. It's a very short teaser:
"Books are like seeds: they come to life when you read them, and grow spines and leaves. I need trees around me as I need to have books around me, so building bookshelves is something like planting trees."
Isn't that wonderful? I wholeheartedly concur with him on both counts!
On a related topic, though I'll warn anyone who might happen to be in my postal reading group to stop reading here, since I am going to mention the book I just received in the last mailing. I'm going to be reading it very soon, and I am quite looking forward to it. When I opened the parcel the book was totally new to me (part of the reason I love my postal reading group). I'd not heard of Gavin Maxwell nor his book, Ring of the Bright Water. I have a feeling there are going to be a few of you who have either read it or have at least heard of it. It seems like one of those much loved books that I am happy to have placed in my hands even if so much later than when it was discovered by other readers.
Maxwell was born in 1914 and wrote Ring of Bright Water in 1960. The book is about his life in a "lonely cottage on the north-west coast of Scotland, about animals that have shared it with him, and about others who are his only immediate neighbors in a landscape of rock and sea." I think Maxwell writes particularly about the otters he adopted (or maybe they adopted him) when he was a boy, but it's also about the greater natural world, one that intrigues me (the solitude sounds blissful to me).
I'm looking forward to getting back to a few books that deal with the natural world. Now that the heat of summer has backed off a bit, maybe I can even spend time outside again and enjoy it.
Just curious, do you have a favorite nature book?