Category Archives: books

Old Books

Advanced Geography by Tarr & McMurry – 1909 Edition

I love books. Especially old ones. And it’s 100 times better if there are pencil markings and notes and underlines throughout. And this particular book? It was marked up by members of my grandmother’s family.

My dad likes to sort through things and pass on items that he won’t use or doesn’t need anymore. I’m the family reader, so he offered me a pile of books. Only 6 or so. All of them of similar vintage. All of them marked up. This one has markings from 1911 when a family member or someone adjacent had it. Right around the time of the Spanish Flu. Ironic? No. Just coincidence that I’d note that.

I’ve been picking through them. There are some primers in there and even a book of arithmetic which is mostly interesting for the word problems. The things we as a people calculated regularly is fascinating. It’s over 100 years ago now. Seems strange. I remember 2000 rolling around and thinking that I was in the future. Those were the days, I suppose.


This was a big week for reading. I have to credit the introduction of The Hammock for a good deal of my reading. Something about the view and simply falling back into a reclined position puts the mind in a space to receive a good book.

Finished this week:

  • A Cook’s Tour – Anthony Bourdain
  • Gathering Moss – Robin Wall Kimmerer
  • Paradise Lot – Eric Toensmeier and Jonathan Bates 
  • The Tobacconist – Robert Seethaler (translated by Charlotte Collins)

All of these were good books for very different reasons. I enjoyed them all. It’s difficult for me, as I get older, to figure out what I should recommend to a friend and what I enjoy because it resonates with some weird combination of things that might be specific to me. Not to say that I think I’m something unique, but I think there are plenty of things that I enjoy because I do and not because of anything grand or great about the thing itself. I’m more and more that way with books.

Gathering Moss

Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer

I can’t remember how I found this one. I think it was mentioned in a newsletter I read because that’s really the only place outside of humans I know that I get book recommendations anymore.

This is different. It’s the story of a mother and a lover of moss. A scientist with a deeply spiritual bent. I really enjoyed it. The chapters are compact and move quickly. The author is clearly an expert but it’s the excitement about moss(!) that really pulled me through this book.

I’d definitely recommend it. It’s up there with something by Muir.

Cook’s Tour

A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain

I came to the Bordain game a bit on the late side. I’m not sure what it was that put me off for so long, but I did, eventually, bite in. Sadly, it was after his passing. Having chewed on Kitchen Confidential for as long as I could, I finished it and picked up this one.

It’s a different read. The travel aspect is interesting. But since I’ve seen every episode of Parts Unknown it was nice to get a little bit behind that curtain that exists when building a travel/food program.

What stands out for me more than anything is the depression in his writing. Put aside the 20/20 hindsight for a minute and read the words. In many ways, he’s lost in himself. Some of that resonates with me. And that’s likely his greater appeal. He is a flawed human being who knows it. That weight shows in some of the asides and his typical self-deprecating commentary.

It does make me want to travel. Though I’m not sure I will anytime soon.

I am haunted by waters.

I read this book every summer. And sometimes again in the fall. I’ve read the short stories that are in this collection as well as the non-fiction “Young Men and Fire” and I always think, “Dammit… Why couldn’t he have written more?” And the truth is, he wrote what he wrote. It’s beautiful.

In a time of wild uncertainty, I think it’s time to open a cold beer and return to the rivers of Montana through his words.