One of my readolutions for this year was to read more than 25% non-fiction. So far, my log records an even split – who knew?! Here are a few of my current preoccupations. 

Madeline Levine’s Ready or Not: Preparing Our Kids to Thrive in an Uncertain and Rapidly Changing World (2020) is in my stack thanks to the NYTimesBookReview. But it’s hard to imagine a more timely read. I wish I could pass this copy around (our library duedates have been suspended until the system reopens) because even though I didn’t even have to wait in a queue for it, her philosophy and approach is not only relevant but essential in today’s “rapidly changing world”.

One of the central tenets of her approach is to cultivate qualities like curiosity and flexibility in children, so it’s not surprising that there are no bullet-point lists here, no jounallingassignments, no textboxes or bolded type catch-phrases here. She urges parents to think rather than simply react—so self-help readers should look elsewhere—but there is an abundance of useful information and it’s presented so clearly that it’s easy to envision the strategy that could emerge from the studies and statistics she presents.

Rumer Godden’s A House with Four Rooms (1989) is the second volume of her autobiography, picking up where A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep (1987) left off. How fortunate I felt, to have requested and picked up both volumes from the library before it closed mid-March.

There is very little overlap with the volume she wrote with her sister about their earliest experiences as children in India, Two Under the Indian Sun (1966). In fact, the trio makes for an ideal reading experience because the more overt storytelling in the sisters’ volume creates a sense of intimacy, which she secures in the autobiographical volumes, which are arranged in essays on various themes. When I’ve explored all four of the titular rooms, I’ll delve into Anne Chisholm’s biography.

Because I’ll soon be reviewing Deni Ellis Béchard’s new novel for World Literature Today (more giddiness about this gig here), I’m busy exploring his back catalogue. His novel Into the Sun holds the record for having distracted me on public transit for the greatest number of stops beyond my own stop. His collection of essays, My Favourite Crime: Essays and Journalism from Around the World (2019), was sitting on the shelf of my branch library on my last visit there before the closure.

His 2017 essay on “The Radical Street Art of Havana’s Youth” fit perfectly with this month’s Here and Elsewhere journey but it’s the variety of topics really pulls in my interest: from female vigilantes in India to a Kabul traffic jam, from child sorcerers in the Congo to his own family history. There’s also an essay on the Bonobos in the Kokolopori Reserve in the Congo, which must be related to his full-length work, Empty Hands Open Hearts: The Race to Save Bonobos in the Congo and Make Conservation Go Viral (2013).

And, finally, Susan Powers’ Rawmazing (2012) was an impulse borrow because I stopped eating sugar in February and I knew that soon I would be looking for some cookies-but-not-cookies to fill my cookie jar. Sugars (especially refined sugars) suppress the immune system and aggravate respiratory problems. And this year – of all years – I didn’t want to wait for seasonal allergies to land hard and worsen my chronic health issues and later find myself wishing I’d done more.

Yes, coming off sugar is brutal. If you don’t think you’re hooked, and you don’t figure the withdrawal would be a big deal, just try it for a day and observe all the tricks your body plays to break your resolve! New recipes and new approaches to meals – all of this helps. If your meals are plant-based and from whole-food ingredients, you’ll love this volume and put it to use immediately: simple recipes and readily adaptable. With more than 60 pages of “dessert” recipes, just the kind of “treats” I need to keep myself on the wagon.

How about you? Have you been reading? Have you been able to make reading plans?