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Six degrees of separation, FROM How to do nothing TO …

August 1, 2020

I am so glad to see that two thirds of winter is officially over. It’s been a horrible year, for all of us really, so a bit of warmth and spring rebirth (here down under) would be very welcome, eh? Meanwhile, I’ll entertain myself with things like the Six Degrees of Separation meme.  If you don’t know this meme and how it works, please check out meme host Kate’s blog – booksaremyfavouriteandbest.

Book coverAugust’s starting book is yet another I haven’t read. Indeed, not only have I not read it, I’ve never heard of it or its author, which is not surprising because, as far as I can tell, it’s a sort of critique of how capitalist forces are driving us all more and more to perform, produce, to be forever doing something, or, as one GoodReads reviewer wrote, on “on how the attention economy and hustle culture is affecting our lives”. The book is Jennifer Odell’s How to do nothing: Resisting the attention economy.

Book coverNow, I’m going to break with my usual practice and start with a book I’ve read but not reviewed on my blog, because this book is the. perfect. book. about. doing. nothing. What’s more, it was published in 1936, so this idea is not new, folks! The book is Munro Leaf’s now classic children’s book, The story of Ferdinand. Why don’t you take a moment to stop and smell the flowers before you read on!

Book cover

My next link is a bit of a leap, because it’s not about a bull, nor about doing nothing, and nor is it set in Spain, but it is about a BIG animal, a mammoth in fact. Yes, my next link is to my most recent review, Chris Flynn’s Mammoth (my review).

Tracy Chevalier, Remarkable creaturesTracy Chevalier’s Remarkable creatures (my review) is an obvious next link, because it is about fossils, albeit not narrated by fossils. However, it is historical fiction about the early nineteenth century fossil collector, Mary Anning who lived in Lyme. I didn’t love the book, but I must say that the story it told – the historical truth contained within it – has stayed with me.

Book coverKeeping with the nature theme, and a coastal setting, I’m going to take us to  William Lane’s The salamanders (my review), part of which is set on the New South Wales coast. While this book is not about fossils, salamander fossils do date back to the Middle Jurassic period in England (and Kyrgyzstan), which is, of course, part of the broader Jurassic period to which Mary Anning’s finds belong.

David Mitchell, The thousand autumns of Jacob de PoetThe story of The salamanders is founded in an artist’s colony, and all the relationships and dysfunctions that such groups can generate. In a very loose link, I’m taking us to David Mitchell’s The thousand autumns of Jacob de Zoet (my review) which concerns a different sort of colony, this one a colony of traders and their slaves on Dejima Island, Nagasaki, Japan. The traders work for the Dutch East India Company, and, as you can imagine, relationships are challenging.

Amitav Ghosh, River of smokeAnother book which deals with European trading in the East Asian region – this time by Britain’s East India Company – is Amitav Ghosh’s River of smoke (my review), the second book in his Ibis trilogy. It is set mostly in Canton in the late 1830s, and explores the lead up to the first Opium War. Hmm, are we back to smelling flowers?

So, a much more travelled chain than usual this month, with visits all over the world, but particularly to  Spain, America, England, Japan and China – as well as Australia. Unusually, too, almost all of this month’s authors are men. What was I thinking?

Now the usual: Have you read How to do nothing? And, regardless, what would you link to? 

38 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2020 11:27 am

    Your first link is perfection 🙂

    I feel the same as you do about Remarkable Creatures – I wasn’t blown away by it at the time but the story has really stayed with me, I think because of the ‘women in science’ theme.

  2. August 1, 2020 12:11 pm

    I have not; and I can only say ‘buggered if I know !’. [grin]
    But I always enjoy your peripatetic literary wanderings; and feel sure that you’ll reach The Magic Pudding sooner or later ..

    • August 1, 2020 1:36 pm

      Haha M-R. I think I like talking puddings less than talking animals, but you never know!

  3. August 1, 2020 12:22 pm

    This was a lovely chain! 🙂
    Mine is very basic, linking by floral covers. What can I say? It’s been a hectic week with a wooly brain.
    https://theresasmithwrites.com/2020/08/01/6degrees-of-separation-from-how-to-do-nothing-to-gullivers-wife/

  4. August 1, 2020 12:31 pm

    I am now wishing I’d thought of linking to Ferdinand! My chain has a kids/YA feel to it this month, so it would have been perfect. And it was also a personal childhood favourite, and my parents read it to me regularly.

    Here’s my chain: https://www.melindatognini.com.au/6-degrees-of-separation-from-how-to-do-nothing-to-the-history-of-mischief/

    • August 1, 2020 4:27 pm

      Thanks Melinda. We had a little single vinyl disc of Ferdinand the Bull, bought for my brother back in the 1960s. It was lovely. I’ll check your chain later this evening when I can relax!

  5. August 1, 2020 1:42 pm

    Well done, Sue, this is a beaut chain:)

  6. August 1, 2020 1:46 pm

    Such an interesting chain. Have read Ferdinand numerous times and enjoyed Chevalier’s book. The others I will have to check out.

    • August 3, 2020 9:36 pm

      Sorry Bev that I missed this when you commented. Thanks so much, and welcome. Ferdinand is pretty precious really isn’t it. I have a copy and to share with our grandson – when we are allowed to visit him again!

  7. August 1, 2020 3:45 pm

    As always I enjoyed reading your chain – and no, I haven’t read How to Do Nothing. I don’t need a book to tell me how to do nothing.

    Nor have I read any of the books on your chain, although I have the last two on my TBR shelves.

    • August 1, 2020 4:21 pm

      Haha Margaret. I love that! I don’t think I need a book for that either! I hope you get to those two on your TBR shelves one day!

  8. August 1, 2020 4:27 pm

    Oh, some really interesting books on this list, Sue. I really like the sound of Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke. Could it be read as a stand-alone, or do I need to read the first book?

    • August 1, 2020 8:33 pm

      Thanks kimbofo. I’d say it can be read alone, because I did! I’d like to read the others, but haven’t – yet.

  9. Sue permalink
    August 1, 2020 7:43 pm

    If I read a book called How to do Nothing, I will be doing something (reading). As I am rather enjoying doing nothing much I don’t think I’ll read it! I’m afraid today I’ve been driving around the countryside playing Creedence Clearwater Revival very loudly on the car stereo with my dog sniffing the air out the side window, and we both had a very enjoyable time thank you! I do like sunny winter days in the country… doing nothing is greatly underrated.

    Can I recommend reading Chicago by Brian Doyle, it is just lovely and uplifting in these difficult times… not at all an Australian book, very American and utterly charming. I have now read it twice – the second time immediately after finishing it the first time.

    And your chain is charming Sue and congrats on getting more done than I have!

    • August 1, 2020 8:41 pm

      Except, I don’t think you were doing nothing, Sue, driving, listening to music, keeping your dog company, sounds like something to me!

      Canberra is lovely in winter – most days are still and sunny, like today.

      That book sounds good. I like reading American books. I’ve never heard of Brian Doyle. I have added it to my list of recommendations but given right now I am reading books sent to me for review 8 months ago, I don’t think I’ll be reading my own choices for a long time.

      • Sue permalink
        August 2, 2020 6:18 pm

        I had one year in Canberra long ago Sue – studying a course at UC, I lived in Melba. I hated it for the first six months and then I loved it and didn’t want to leave! Autumn and Spring were the best, like they are here…

        Brian Doyle has written a number of books – I would love to read Mink River – but they’re so expensive coming from the USA…and I know what you mean about the never ending list of books to be read (much less reviewed!!)

        • August 2, 2020 7:08 pm

          I’m glad you got to love Canberra, Sue. I love Summer and Autumn most. Spring is nice because of the lengthening days and the blossoms, but it is so changeable and can be very windy, which I don’t like. We’ve had 8°C in October. I DON’T like that! Haha.

          I visited Canberra when I was about 15 with my family, and then when I was 21/22 with my library course, and really liked it. I decided that this is where I wanted to live – a city, but a manageable one in which it was pretty easy and safe for young women to be out and about.

  10. August 1, 2020 7:56 pm

    Mostly male authors? Really, what WERE you thinking! (Joking) Really nice chain here, interesting twist too.

  11. George permalink
    August 1, 2020 11:53 pm

    A wonderful start, though I haven’t read it.

    Step 1: The Harried Leisure Class by Steffan Lindner, an economist who explains why increased prosperity has meant decreased leisure. Next, Leisure, the Basis of Culture by the philosopher Josef Pieper, who mentions the etymology of school, scholar, etc. as deriving from the Greek “skole”, rest or leisure. Third, for the naps, Barbara Holland’s Endangered Pleasures: In Defense of Naps, Bacon, Martinis, Profanity, and Other Indulgences (this one I haven’t read). Fourth, for the line “Only the wasteful virtues earn the sun” in the prefatory poem, Responsibilities by W.B. Yeats. Fifth, as illustrating Lindner’s point, On the Island by Thomas O’Croghan, showing a life on Great Blaskett Island where everyone was quite poor, and worked very hard at times, but there was also plenty of time for visiting, games, and so on–O’Croghan refers to America, where his brother had worked for some time, as “the land of sweat.” Sixth, as implying that leisure can be too much of a good thing if not tempered with discipline, Oblomov

    • August 2, 2020 8:46 am

      Ah, love your plays with the leisure theme George. Thanks as always for playing along and introducing very different works. I do like the sound of Holland’s!

  12. Meg permalink
    August 2, 2020 11:06 am

    Hi Sue, love your links. I did try to read How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell. But it annoyed me so I gave up. I went off to meandering links. Underland by Robert Macfarlane; Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver; A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson; Walden by Henry David Thoreau; Economic Facts and Fallacies by Thomas Sowell, and Madness of Crowds by Douglas Murray

    • August 2, 2020 4:49 pm

      Oh, that’s interesting Meg. You are a rare one! Your chain has some intriguing links.

  13. August 2, 2020 3:38 pm

    I haven’t, and won’t, but I enjoyed your chain.

    • August 2, 2020 4:50 pm

      Haha Shelleyrae. That’s about me too – haven’t and won’t (or can’t imagine I will.)

  14. August 2, 2020 4:36 pm

    I love that you included Ferdinand in your chain! Great fun!

    • August 2, 2020 4:51 pm

      Thanks Marg. It was such fun to include Ferdinand – and I thought he would appeal, and be known, pretty much universally amongst my readers.

  15. August 2, 2020 5:30 pm

    I’ve so far read none of these, but several of them appeal: particularly perhaps the William Lane. This is my first time to accept this challenge, and it’s astonishing the different directions we have all taken.

    • August 2, 2020 7:00 pm

      I hope you enjoy taking part in this challenge Margaret. It’s the only meme I do regularly. I enjoy the challenge of linking books – and I like the way it helps me remember books I’ve read in the past.

  16. Anne S permalink
    August 6, 2020 2:15 pm

    Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow by Jerome K Jerome – a collection of humorous essays by the writer of Three Men In A Boat.

    It’s available here for free in ebook format: http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/849

    • August 6, 2020 8:36 pm

      Oh lovely Anne. I have just acquired my late Mum’s copy of Three men in a boat, which I must say I haven’t read either, so will add both to my TBR list!

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