Reading means one thing to me: Fiction.

Which means it’s a huge problem when I get tired of it, since I cannot wait in line for 30 seconds, eat dinner, or fall asleep without a book in my hand. I’ve heard that Twyla Tharp submits to self-imposed ‘creativity blackouts’ where she doesn’t read anything for a few weeks – not a magazine, not the mail, not the back of a cereal box. I’m tempted by the potential power of this, but I also hear the call of the loony bin.

My solution? All those non-fiction books that look so interesting when I fondle the covers and read the jacket copy, but just can’t bring myself to crack the cover when there’s still another alien-faerie-murdering-victorian-classic-YA-suspense-thingy clamoring for my attention.

Last week’s cleansing diet:

thrumptonThrumpton Hall: A Memoir of Life in My Father’s House
by Miranda Seymour
What: Woman writes of her father’s obsession with inheriting, preserving & coddling a Stately Home.
Why: As I was saying, it’s good to read about people whose lives are very different from yours.
Verdict: Powered by daughter’s (understandable) hostility to her father. Lightweight events recounted would have failed in the hands of a less-experienced biographer.
Bonus: Have your wedding at Thrumpton!

egyptMurder in Little Egypt, by Darcy O’Brien
What: Classic case of the murdering doctor, hailed as a hero by his rural community.
Why: It’s been on by bookshelf since 2003…and it’s a library book.
Verdict: Engrossing psychology.

motherLeaving Mother Lake: A Girlhood at the Edge of the World
by Yang Erche Namu and Christine Mathieu
What: Young girl leaves her tribal home in the ‘Land of Daughters’ for the wider world.
Why: Saw it on a ‘Best Books’ list.
Verdict: Enjoyed learning about traders and yak herders at the China/Tibet border. Appreciated Namu’s character: she resists her handsome lover by imagining children clinging to her skirts, and greets her pen pal with ‘How dare you be so ugly!”
Bonus: In China, Namu is a “crass celebrity“.

parsonThe Diary of a Country Parson (1758-1802)
by James Woodforde
What: Woodforde spends 20-some years as parson in Nofolk, writing down what happens, what he eats, and what he spends.
Why: Jigg the greyhound snuck in the cellar and ate the special pudding along with some cold tongue–recounted in Jane Grigson’s Fruit Book, in the segment on ‘Apricots’.
Verdict: Sometimes quotidian, sometimes droll, sometimes surprising. Unfailingly illuminating.