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I thought when I stopped working for the county that my reading rate would skyrocket. Well, it hasn't. It could be that I got just too addicted to Facebook and my phone in the intervening months -- very likely. Another likelihood is that all the non-school reading I did in school was just work avoidance: I'd get too depressed about avoiding schoolwork if I spent too much time on Facebook, but could pick up a novel "for a few minutes" and get completely lost in it. (I've also learned to stay out of huckster rooms on Friday afternoons, because if I buy something it will become The Best Book Ever and I won't actually socialize until I'm done.) Anyway, here are the books I read in November.

God, Dr. Buzzard, and the Bolito Man
Cornelia Walker Bailey (with Christena Bledsoe)
Doubleday, 2000

Cornelia Walker Bailey grew up on a small island on the Georgia coast. When she was born, the electricity was limited to the plantation house owned by RJ Reynolds and a few favored blacks. There was no indoor plumbing for blacks. Their living was working for Reynolds for cash and subsistence fishing and farming. Black people had lived there for approximately 200 years, establishing a deep sense of place. The Georgia coast islands were climatically very similar to West Africa, and entire families were enslaved intact to grow rice. This allowed the cultural traditions of Africa to be preserved in ways that didn't happen in other slaveholding states. The people became called the Gullah and GeeChee. Ms. Bailey is a Geechee.

What struck me most about this book is the sense of place that comes from having generations of your family having lived in the same location. This provides an almost innate sense of the tides, weather, and seasons. As more of the island was electrified, jobs left the island and it was more difficult to live just on the island, the cultural pathways, stories, and practices of Ms. Bailey's childhood were fading. She's worked to preserve them, and preserve the community of Hog Hammuck. This book is her memoir of growing up and how she came to be the preserver and story teller for her culture.

Heart and Brain
Nick Seluk
Andrews McMeel, 2015

Collection of the webcomic that I started following when the artist posted a comic about gall bladders on the day after Julie had gall bladder surgery. Brain tries to be responsible, heart tries to be free and impulsive. They need each other, though, and are stronger for their dynamic tension. Also, funny and sweet by turns. And funnysweet. Contains new material not previously on the web. (I liked it more than you might think from this bare bones description.)

The One Straw Revolution
Masanobu Fukuoka
New York Review Books, 1978

Masanobu Fukuoka proposes a method of farming timed to natural sequences of plants. Cover crops and food crops are sown in sequence such that weeds are kept down. The straw is returned to the field after harvest, returning most of the nutrients to the soil. This is a no-till method that builds the soil up year after year with no amendments. It works for the area of Japan he is in, because he had worked on the method for decades by the time of original publication. It would work in other locations, but would need to be adapted to local growing seasons and crops. He also espouses a philosophy of being in touch with the earth and its cycles. In some ways, his method of farming reminded me of the Bradley method of restoration. This book left me wishing I had some land -- even a back yard would do -- to practice his method and adapt it to PNW climate.

M Train
Patti Smith
Alfred A. Knopf, 2015

More of an impressionist meditation than a linear memoir, the writing in M Train is beautifully transporting, with a strong feeling to me of magical realism. Maybe a closer or second reading would reveal the linearity I missed the first time, but I liked Patti Smith's descriptions of the world she inhabits. There was an edge of unreality to even seeming prosaic events like flying home from Japan. Also, lots of coffee is consumed.
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