After the flood, we had internet, but no computer. Through a very generous gift, I have a computer now! But living in a FEMA trailer has left us without internet. Sigh. So that’s my new excuse for sporadic blog posts.
This past year was tough. In the spring Ryan finished his theology master’s, the summer our house flooded and we spent the fall and beginning of winter displaced, moving from one temporary housing situation to another.
The only thing tougher than this past year, however, was my will to escape it. I’m not sure if I even made a blog-official reading goal for this past year. On Goodreads I set out to read 35 books. I wanted to see if I could reach 10,000 pages but put no other goal or restrictions on myself. I just wanted to follow my interests.
My desire to be immersed continuously in at least one story at a time culminated in 13,540 pages over 52 books!
I needed a lot of distraction! I got exactly what I needed from reading this year — not just distraction but also so many topics to keep my mind busy on. I made a few discoveries this year that I’m very excited about.
I posted before about the works of Anne Murrow Lindburg I read earlier this year. I recently read The Lost Star: The Search for Amelia Earhart. I’ve enjoyed comparing and contrasting these two women in my mind. Their personalities and ambitions could not be further apart. In a way they embody the figurative Eve and Mary: Amelia the pant-wearing rebel throwing caution and gender expectations to the wind and Anne the meek and mild mother assisting quietly yet competently her husband’s career. Highest, fastest, first and farthest, Amelia and Anne broke into the same male-dominated world and accomplished incredible things but each in her own way. And all in a time when women wearing pants was scandalous.
Intrigued by early 1900’s female trailblazers, my interests turned to Nellie Bly. I’ll admit I only knew who she was because of a scene in The West Wing when the first lady is talking about going to the opening of a Nellie Bly monument. I may have learned about her from TV, but the point is, I knew and it was enough of a crumb to intrigue me. Anyways, she’s fascinating! Again, at a time when women were hardly allowed to venture beyond their own door step without a chaperone, Nellie Bly broke into the newspaper biz and became a pioneer of investigative and under-cover journalism. Her work has had far reaching effects beyond print media. After the publication of her report of going undercover in a prominent New York sanitarium, laws were quickly changed to add funding and professional resources to facilities treating the mentally insane – the beginning of a nation wide trend. For Christmas, I got a wonderful copy of her complete works I can’t wait to dig into, I’d also love to find a good biography.
Exhilarated to learn about Nellie’s monumental influence on New York’s mental institutions, I read The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. In the 1950’s, Henrietta Lacks was a black woman in her 30’s when she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the colored-only ward of Johns Hopkins. The book follows her life, family and treatment as well as the life of her cells which were discovered to be “immortal”. Doctors at this time were just discovering the fundamentals of cellular biology; a major obstacle to research was that human cells would quickly die outside a living body. The cells of Henrietta Lacks, however, readily reproduced and multiplied. This discovery accelerated tests of the polio vaccine and proved to be the missing piece to human trials. Because scientists had human cells, as opposed to rat cells, to test the vaccine on, they were quickly able to prove the vaccine safe for humans. Shortly after Henrietta’s cells were “discovered” children all over the country began receiving the vaccine – the beginning of the end to the polio pandemic. Her cells are still in circulation among researchers today and have been a part of nearly every major medical breakthrough along the way.
If I don’t stop myself soon, I’ll ramble to no end. Honorable mentions from this year’s reading are: The Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz, my discovery of Neil Gaiman (The Graveyard and The Ocean at the End of the Lane), The Story of the Trapp Family Singers by Maria Augusta von Trapp, The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder and The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, The Power Behind Five English Thrones by Thomas Asbridge
I’m deciding on my goals, if any for next year. I also have more blog posts in the process of being written (read: in my head). It all comes down to how often I can get the kids to the library and keep them entertained while I soak up the internet access.
What about you? Did you set a goal for 2016? What gems did you discover last year?