Since I have last been in this space, the reading:
Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England, by Juliet Barker. A little dense at times, but overall quite good. I learned a lot.
In the Woods, by Tana French. Pretty much as good as everyone says it is. Our narrator's unreliable and a bit dickish, but I still enjoyed it immensely.
Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons. I hate to say it, but I like the movie better. It's not fair, really, to compare lines on a page with Ian McKellan's delivery of them, and I am sure I would have laughed myself silly at the book if I'd never seen the movie. And the book does contain the following description of a movie audience which anyone who has gone to the Kendall Square cinema lately will recognize:
That audience had run to beards and magenta shirts and original ways of arranging its neckwear; and not content with the ravages produced in its over-excitable nervous system by the remorseless working of its critical intelligence, it had sat through a film of Japanese life called "Yes", made by a Norwegian film company in 1915 with Japanese actors, which lasted an hour and three-quarters and contained twelve closeups of water-lilies lying perfectly still on a scummy pond and four suicides, all done extremely slowly.
But other than that it was a bit of a let-down. I'll just be watching the movie again, I think.
Man Seeks God: My Flirtations with the Divine, by Eric Weiner. I really liked Weiner's The Geography of Bliss; this was not as good. In it he examines eight different religions in what he claims to be a serious attempt to pick one for himself, but the choices of Raëlism (in which adherents believe that aliens created mankind for the purpose of lots of boinking) and Shamanism make it pretty clear that he's just looking for funny things to write about. He also "examines" Shamanism and Sufism by going to workshops in L.A., basically, which doesn't strike me as diligent research. This book let me down because I think Weiner's a better journalist than you'd guess from it; he's trying too hard to find bizarre people and write funny stories about them, rather than actually studying religion. The impression I was left with was that he was depressed with the project by the end, and with the resulting product as well.
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester. I couldn't finish this. The first two-thirds were quite good, about the history and geographic elements of the Atlantic Ocean, but when Winchester got to his part about mankind's influence on the oceans, he refused to commit to the fact that man is causing climate change. He just kept hedging, and making excuses, and claiming that "several renowned scientists" still refuse to believe in anthropogenic climate change so he's not going to address it as a given, and I couldn't keep reading that bullshit on every other page - especially when the rest of those pages was a litany of the nightmarish things which man is doing to the earth's oceans. So I stopped reading.
In my life:
Berowne asked me to marry him, and I said yes. As Dr. Johnson put it: the triumph of hope over experience.
I spent a lovely few days with Berowne and my family in Stratford, Ontario, at the theater festival. We saw an absolutely incredible performance of "Othello", a very strong "Measure for Measure", a very weak "Romeo and Juliet" (no sparks at all), a good "Fiddler on the Roof", and "The Three Musketeers", which, poor story, is not suited for the stage. They tried. It didn't work.
I had a wonderful time, but will always be the kind of person for whom the best part of vacation is coming home. My own bed, my dogs... and, soon enough, the man I will marry. It doesn't get sweeter than that.