Which class would you take?

With beautiful blue skies and a touch of fall in the air, I strolled the streets of Berkeley pretending I was back in college. Well, actually I was pretending I was my husband back in college because Berkeley is his alma mater, not mine, but I still caught the nostalgia bug for my own days in college. And there is no place more quietly exciting than a campus bookstore in the fall. After I had exhausted all the regular bookstores in Berkeley I found myself in a few that sold course books. I thought fondly of how much I loved going course book shopping when I was in school. It was especially fun as an undergrad when there was so much that was new and so many courses outside my major to take. Not surprisingly then, I found myself wrapped up in a college fantasy as I strolled the aisles. But which classes would I take? Which class would you take?

I’m glad the instructor dropped The Mill on the Floss in favor of Daniel Deronda since I’ve read the former but not the latter. But I wonder if I could actually get through Bleak House. Is that the one with Jarndyce and Jarndyce? But more than anything I’d be curious to see how it all fits in with Darwin. Or is it the other way around?
Although I find Mrs. Dalloway dull as dishwater, I loved Passing and am curious about the “not available” Lonely Londoners.
Huge fan of Americanah, couldn’t get into Homegoing, but would probably be interesting to talk about in class.
I think I would probably hate this class. A lot.
Oh lord. Maybe if I took this class and got to go in depth (and maybe got some help in understanding them) I would hate Faulkner and Conrad less; appreciate James and Woolf more, and finally get around to Beloved. Nabokov and Wilde would be re-reads, but then again, so would the James, Woolf, and Conrad. I would really have hated this as an undergrad.
My writing classes in college were freshman comp and then writing for the social sciences. I have no idea how this class would work.
This one looks a bit fascinating despite my general dislike of Robinson.
People on Twitter have been reading, hating, and not finishing The Mysteries of Udolpho so that doesn’t bode well for this class. I’m very curious how Silent Spring fits in. (And yes, Austen, is spelled incorrectly.)
With the exception of the text penciled in at the bottom, I’ve already read all of these. That would be the best of all worlds, re-reading 3 short books and then going in deep.
Despite my dislike of Conrad and my fear of Ulysses, this would probably be the class I would take. But then again, maybe not. Probably more interesting to go a little further outside my comfort zone.
At least three courses had Fun Home as assigned reading.


I did actually buy one of the required texts for an Italian class on English grammar for students of Italian. I worry that some Berkeley student doesn’t have his/her textbook because I bought a copy, but one of my challenges in studying a foreign language is my spotty knowledge of the technical names of parts of grammar like “direct object pronouns”.


Book Shopping in Berkeley

After a lovely, foggy, few days at Sea Ranch on the Northern California coast, it was equally lovely to spend a few gloriously sunny days in Berkeley. One of the reasons for both the Sea Ranch and the Berkeley stays was because a crazy tech conference in San Francisco meant that hotel room prices were astronomically off the charts. When looking for a place to stay that was convenient to the BART so that I could get into the city for the opera and orchestra performances I had booked, Berkeley was an easy choice. I had been there on three or four occasions with my husband who went to school at UC-Berkeley. I knew there would be good food and plenty of books.

I had to work while I was there, but given that my work day started at about 6:00 AM to keep up with my office back in DC, it meant that I also had lunchtime and a good chunk of the afternoon to have a bit of a wander. I was able to spend time book buying at Mrs. Dalloway’s, Sleepy Cat, Pegasus, and Half Price Books. I also went to the historic Moe’s Books, but they had Brett Kavanaugh on the radio and that is most definitely not compatible with book browsing, so I left empty handed after about 2 minutes.

I meant to go inside to see how this design translated into the interior, but I never quite made it in.
The glaze twist at Dream Fluff Donuts was so perfect, I went back in for a second one. It had the perfect amount of glaze, slightly flaking off. The mistake of many a glaze donut is too much glaze.
Mrs. Dalloway’s is a truly lovely spot with a great selection. They have a great gardening section and I was able to find three books for John.
I wasn’t even looking for this place, I just happened to walk by. The cats, by the way, weren’t very sleepy. This one knocked some books over and got into brief fisticuffs with another resident cat, but I don’t know who started it.
Easily the tidiest used bookstore I have been in. Lots of good reading copies of general fiction. Of course they may have other things but I tend not to notice non-fiction.
There is Chez Panisse and then there is the Cafe at Chez Panisse upstairs. I was only able to nab a reservation for the Cafe and even then it was for 9:15 PM on a Wednesday night. This is the genesis of farm to table restaurants in the U.S.
After my late dinner at Chez Panisse I was pleased as punch that the Half Price Books right near my hotel was open until 11:00 PM.

Fogged in at Sea Ranch

After The Readers Retreat Simon and I wended our way up the coast to Sea Ranch, a lovely, quiet spot of rugged coastline. And when I say wended, we really wended. The road north of Bodega Bay to Sea Ranch is twisty and yours truly got more than a little car sick even though I was driving. I think that the windy road (as opposed to windy) is one of the reasons why the area is not jam packed with holiday makers and weekend homeowners. There are, for sure, weekend homes at Sea Ranch, but happily it has all been done in a way to keep the coast looking very coastal. We stayed at the Sea Ranch Lodge which is a lovely throwback to 1970s California modernism.

It was foggy the whole time we were there but it was so peaceful and conducive to reading that I didn’t mind one little bit. One of the things I really love about this setting aside from the ocean, is the plant diversity. It may look at first glance like a field of grass, but there is so much more going on the closer you look.

Getting killed by birds*

* didn’t really happen

After The Readers Retreat we headed north up so Simon could see some of the Northern California coast. And on the way we stopped in Bodega and Bodega Bay so Simon could pretend he was Tippi Hendren.

Several people at The Readers Retreat suggest we stop in Point Reyes for obvious reasons.
Simon bought two copies of this book. One for each eye.
I loved this wild yard in Bodega Bay.
The school from The Birds is now someone’s house.
The view from the school. I feel like Hitchcock and I saw the same thing.

The Readers conquer San Francisco

As most of you know I have been the co-host of The Readers podcast for about 107 episodes so far. Recently Simon and I had the distinct pleasure of welcoming about 18 of our listeners to San Francisco for a weekend of hanging out and book-based banter. It was a little challenging organizing three days of activities in one city siting in another about 3,000 miles away. But, happily, everything worked out really well. It was so much fun getting to know so many wonderful bookish people.  The only real problem is that I took almost no pictures of the proceedings or the participants.

We ate, we went book shopping, we got a bespoke tour of the rare book collection at the San Francisco Public Library, and we recorded three episodes with a live audience. Those recording sessions was my favorite part of the weekend. It was so much fun expanding our regular chatter to include others.  One of the episodes we recorded was the discussion of Hot Milk by Deborah Levy which was our summer read along pick. If you haven’t read it yet you still have time before the episode goes live. I think you will enjoy the discussion.

Anyhoo, here is a glimpse of the weekend.

The view from my hotel window. This is, no doubt, the same view that Lucy Honeychurch saw.
The hotel where I stayed and where we hosted a happy hour on Friday night was also home to a convention of 2,000 knitters. Talk about synergy. (The cat conference was next door.)
After dinner on Friday night we all headed off to City Lights to do some moonlight shopping. Thanks to Karen for this photo.
While we were at City Lights I asked everyone to choose a book that they would want to put in everyone’s hands and then I snapped a photo of each person with their choice. Unfortunately, I failed to ask if I could use the photos on my blog, so you only get to see my choice.
Our “tour” of the rare book room at the San Francisco Pubic Library was laid out with all kinds of goodies when we arrived. We got to look and touch.
I love this illustration. Even though it is French, I think of this as an homage to the Great British Bakeoff.
One of the Kelmscott Chaucers produced by William Morris. Such a beautiful book.
This fox reminds me of Lucy. And that’s how Lucy looks at rabbits as well.
An undated album on commercially available papers reminded many of us of Persephone.
Hand-painted plates.
On Saturday afternoon, after our picnic in Mission Dolores Park, some went book shopping and some went off to the Legion of Honor for a show on the Pre-Raphaelites. This painting wasn’t a part of that but was a stunner.
The date on this was the 1880s. It shows a Russian bride and her wedding party. I was fascinated by how exotic the Russians must have seemed to Western Europeans of the time.
Sunday afternoon after lunch at the Ferry Building, a few of us went off to hear an all Stravinsky program by the San Francisco Symphony.

Chunksters through the years

Some chunksters require a little remedial help. This was an attempt to map out the characters in War and Peace by the pool in 2010.


A comment recently on Twitter about War and Peace got me thinking about the longest book I have read this year. The stats page of Goodreads offers up a nifty tool that shows you the longest book you’ve read each year.  The results are kind of fun.

2018: So far this year the longest book I have read is The Philosopher’s Pupil by Iris MURDOCH at 560 pages, but I fully intend to read Anathem by Neal STEPHENSON which 937 pages.

2017: 69 read, longest was 866 pages – 4 3 2 1 by P. AUSTER
2016: 99 read, longest was 799 pages – Middlemarch by G. ELIOT
2015: 74 read, longest was 864 pages – The Prime Minister by A. TROLLOPE
2014: 60 read, longest was 850 pages – Can You Forgive Her? by A. TROLLOPE
2013: 109 read, longest was 1,474 pages – A Suitable Boy by V. SETH
2012: 62 read, longest was 536 pages – The Name of the Rose by U. ECO
2011: 88 read, longest was 1,276 pages – The Count of Monte Christo by A. DUMAS
2010: 62 read, longest was 1,358 pages – War and Peace by L. TOLSTOY
2009: 110 read, longest was 797 pages – The Portrait of a Lady by H. JAMES
2008: 58 read, longest was 880 pages – The Last Chronicle of Barset by A. TROLLOPE
2007: 69 read, longest was 738 pages – I am Charlotte Simmons by T. WOLFE
2006: 76 read, longest was 648 pages – The Three Clerks by A. TROLLOPE
2005: 57 read, longest was 659 pages – The Small House at Allington by A. TROLLOPE
2004: 51 read, longest was 629 pages – The Secret History by D. TARTT
2003: 39 read, longest was 850 pages – Can You Forgive Her? by A. TROLLOPE
2002: 31 read, longest was 859 pages – An American Tragedy by T. DREISER
2001: 34 read, longest was 495 pages – The Sea, the Sea by I. MURDOCH
2000: 33 read, longest was 654 pages – Sons and Lovers by D.H. LAWRENCE
1999: 27 read, longest was 704 pages – A Man in Full by T. WOLFE
1998: 25 read, longest was 897 pages – I Know This Much Is True by W. LAMB
1997: 31  read, longest was 960 pages – Anna Karenina by L. TOLSTOY
1996: 14 read, longest was 582 pages – Elmer Gantry by S. LEWIS
1995: 20 read, longest was 637 pages – A Prayer for Owen Meany by J. IRVING

One thing that is interesting about this list is that some big books like The Woman in White and The Three Musketeers didn’t make the cut because there were other bigger books those years.

I didn’t bother with the winners from 1993 and 1994 because they didn’t even go above 400 pages.

From the 1,000+ category I think I enjoyed The Count of Monte Christo the most.

The one I am least likely to read again (meaning, you couldn’t pay me to read it again): Sons and Lovers

The one I think I may have enjoyed the most: 4 3 2 1

Maine is one of the best places on earth

If I wait until I have the energy to write a narrative I will never get around to posting these pictures. We did a quick four-day trip to Maine over Labor Day weekend that was just what the doctor ordered. The weather was perfect. The food was good. The books were plentiful. The water was blue, the trees were green, and the birds in the sky sang.