Books I’ve Been Reading – April 2017

Reading is my great love, matched only by sharing these books, whether it’s by passing them on to others or telling friends about the stories I’ve read. I’m curious about so much in life and reading both satisfies and fuels this curiosity.

Perhaps that’s why my taste is so eclectic – it’s a response to the messiness of life. I pivot equally to fiction and non-fiction in both wanting to answer the ‘why’s and ‘how’s as much as wanting to be entranced by a story well told. I’m drawn to the feeling of being carried away and I also love standing on the shoulders of giants, figuratively speaking, and appreciating new perspectives on the world. And of course being up close and personal with others whose view is from the ground or from the margins.

What I’ve Been Reading In April

Only a few this month…

All At Sea by Decca Aitkenhead is her story of what happens after her partner, Tony Wilkinson, drowns trying to save their eldest son, who survives. It’s a hardheaded full plunge dive through the heart of grief and it not only transforms the writer, it kind of transforms the reader too, at least for the rollercoaster ride that is the story.

Aitkenhead’s telling is guttural, wild, unsentimental and utterly, achingly true.  There are so many dimensions and stages of grief and Aitkenhead traverses them all in her narrative that takes the form of a mythic journey of a man redeemed only to die saving his son at sea and his family’s own journey to the other side of grief.


Me Jane by Patrick McDonnell An independent bookshop called Book Passages opened in Sausalito a few weeks ago and, thrilled to have a bookshop again, I went in to celebrate by buying some books. At the front counter was the last copy of ‘Me Jane’ a children’s book on Jane Goodall’s life and work. It’s a special story for anyone, child or adult, in inspiring us to hold fast to a dream and ride it all the way to fruition. In this case, starting with the chimp she had as a child – Jubilee and taking us on Jane’s journey where she succeeded in completely changing the way we see chimpanzees, saving many from being killed.  And then her growing realization a broader global conservation movement was needed (that became Roots and Shoots) to save chimps from poachers. Like the book, Jane starts with children, and a child’s dream.

My Own Words: Ruth Bader Ginsberg with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W Williams Ruth Bader Ginsburg is an inspiration to millions and I’m one of many in hoping she remains a Supreme Court Justice at least for the next 8 years. This book is co-written with Mary Hartnett and Wendy W Williams and they do a terrific job in retaining Ginsberg’s voice in an accessible style.

There is such warmth, wit and verve to these highly intelligent, stimulating and memorable pieces that I can’t wait for Justice Ginsberg’s autobiography, which apparently is underway with the same co-writers. Particularly moving is her writing about her friendship with Justice Scalia that says a lot about how friendships can traverse political differences. One wonders how Justice Gorsuch might fare in the friendship stakes at a time when Justice Ginsberg herself has publicly acknowledged this is where everything she’s championed is under threat. A book for our times.

Re-reading Full Tilt by Dervla Murphy: This book launched me headlong into a life of adventure and activism and finding a hardback copy of the book was a tangible reminder of the delight this book inspired. This included maintaining an attitude of perpetual curiosity and openness to all that life offers.

I loved that Murphy named her bike Roz (short for Rozthe) and that, on this first trip in 1965, she embarked on her bicycle trek from Dunkirk, across Europe, through Iran and Afghanistan, over the Himalayas to Pakistan and India. That Murphy approached her trips with a political sensitivity and awareness and a deep commitment to human rights is so evident in her writing.

It affirmed for me the profound importance of art and activism, in this case the power of witness by someone with a poet’s eye and a view from the ground.

Flowering Dusk by Ella Young: I was led to this book as a result of a filmmaking group I’m involved with that’s capturing the story of the 1960s transformative community of Druid Heights. This community, perched above Muir Woods in California involved individuals including Alan Watts, Gary Snyder, Elsa Gidlow and Ella Young and the names was inspired by Ella’s own story.

Ella Young was an Irish poet, revolutionary and mystic and this autobiography captures her experience of the Irish national movement and follows her relocation to the United States. In the book Young shares her time spent with individuals including Ansel Adams, D H Lawrence while teaching Celtic mythology at Stanford and exploring eco-feminist ways of living.

It’s a book that has so much resonance for these times in which we live and offers a potent example, of how to live a life of meaning, discovery and joy.

Beginning to read (for sharing next month): The Ground Beneath Us by Paul Bogard, author of a book I loved: The End of Night: Searching for Natural Darkness in an Age of Artificial Light

More next month…

Jane Sloane
San Francisco

One Reply to “Books I’ve Been Reading – April 2017”

  1. Thanks, Jane! I’m sure you have read “Handmaid’s Tale” and “Sixth Extinction” — both beautifully written and terrifying.

    Keep the suggestions coming!

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