Friday, May 8, 2020

April Favorites: Hot Air Balloons, Tony Award Nominees, and Dinosaurs

Will has been reading a lot of these in April!
I really miss our public library! It's probably a big clue that our family checks out too many books, since the library has been closed for over seven weeks and I STILL haven't run out of library books to read, but to be honest, most of the books still on my to-read shelf are ones that I'd have flipped through the day before their due date, thought, "Eh," and returned them.

I did find a couple of winners, though. I stole this graphic novel adaptation from Will's library shelves--

--and it is GORGEOUS!!! Children's novels often make terrific graphic novel adaptations because they're shorter so you have to exclude less, and frankly, I might have liked this graphic novel adaptation better than I liked the original novel.

I like to read a lot of nonfiction books, even though many nonfiction books seem to strive to make themselves deliberately unlikable (I am currently slogging through a biography of the man who essentially invented the study of geology, and although I really want the information, the author is making it VERY difficult for me!). Honestly, this book on the history of hot air balloons was another slog--

--even though I am absolutely obsessed with the content! You guys, hot air balloons are CRAZY, and the people who flew them did SO MANY CRAZY THINGS and DIED IN SO MANY CRAZY WAYS.

Alas that there were so many intrepid balloon explorers based out of the UK! It's, you know, an island, so some balloonist would figure out a new way to balloon, like maybe a bigger balloon with a different kind of valve and a different style of rope, and then that balloonist would launch their maiden flight to show off their new tech...

...and then that balloon and balloonist would basically float straight out to sea, never to be heard from again.

It's just so interesting to read about the whole history of people trying to master how to navigate perfectly in a hot air balloon, knowing that we still can't do it! Pilots raise and lower the balloon to catch different air currents, but there's no worldwide atmospheric infrastructure in place to exactly note where all these different currents are, so it's still a lot of guesswork. How cool and weird is it to know that, as a species, we have that much ignorance about our own atmosphere!

You might think, then, that since navigating a hot air balloon depends on knowing the speed and direction of various wind currents that you pretty much have to already be familiar with, hot air ballooning would be particularly unsuitable for exploration.

And you would be right, which does not mean that people have not tried it. The book devotes its final chapter to retelling the story of an 1897 attempt to REACH THE NORTH POLE BY HOT AIR BALLOON, and the story is utterly horrifying and I think about it probably every day. I won't tell you the whole thing, because I think you should read about it for yourself, but I will tell you that at one point the explorers attempt to walk back to civilization from the Arctic Circle, and they walk tons of miles every day, only to eventually figure out that they're making literally no progress because the ice that they're walking on is flowing north faster than they're walking south.

I'm also super into this garbled pseudo-historical (but VERY good) movie about hot air balloon exploration:

They've kind of stolen some characters (the heroine is clearly supposed to be Sophie Blanchard, who did not do the things in this movie but did stuff just as crazy, and eventually died when her balloon crashed on a rooftop in Paris, and she partly fell out of it and broke her leg and got caught in the ropes and was just dangling there, screaming while onlookers watched in horror, until she finally fell out of the ropes and to her death on the street), but as long as you remember that it's fiction with some stolen historical characters and events it's SUPER good and exciting and you'll want to read more about the history of hot air ballooning afterwards.

Okay, here's what else I read in April:

Will is also down to the dregs of her library selections, so much so that she has actually been griping all month that we do not have a better selection of books in our home library. This from the child who NEVER reads books from our home library, and rarely re-reads books at all. She's probably the only hyper-lexic child on the planet who doesn't receive a stack of new books for every gift-giving occasion, because there's no point.

I'm sure as heck going to remedy that for her birthday! Can you believe that the child shamed me for not owning a copy of Dracula? The LIBRARY owns our copy of Dracula! It's not my fault that the library won't let us come and get it right now! Sigh...

It was nice to see, though, that now that Will has deigned to read some books from our home library, some of those books were her favorites from the month:

Jurassic Park was especially fun, because the science is just as hilariously dicey as it is in the films. I knew whenever she'd picked it up because the outraged corrections and protestations of bunkumness would commence via hollering from whatever room she was in to whatever room I was in.

Here are Will's other favorites from April:

I'm going to add those Rivers of London books to my own must-read list, because they sound awesome!

Here's what else Will found to read in April:

That's a little more than half of the books that she usually reads in any given month. From what I can tell, she's spending the remainder of the time she'd normally spend reading binge-watching TV shows. I mean, Leverage is kind of educational-ish, I guess?

I have been doing a LOT of anxiety-related deep cleaning in April, and I've really been enjoying this podcast while I slog away endlessly:

I normally like narrative podcasts a lot better than panel discussion ones, but this one has the perfect format: there are two writers, and every episode they take turns so that one of them has researched the subject and can do the whole deep dive, and the other is the straight man who asks the type of questions that anybody just listening to the story for the first time would ask. It's almost always about some super popular thing that you've definitely heard of but actually know very little about, like the Duke lacrosse rape allegations, or shaken baby syndrome, and it turns out that whatever you think you know, YOU ACTUALLY KNOW NOTHING.

So this other random thing that I've been doing is watching old Tony Awards productions, essentially just so I can fast-forward through them to watch all of the performances from the best musical nominees. It's interesting to see what shows were out in any given year, and how their performances have gotten a LOT splashier over the decades!

Pro tip: the musical that you recognize is usually the one that won in any given year!

Except for the year with the Will Rogers Follies. Just... no.

I'm actually really looking forward to May! I'm trying to focus less on the huge disappointments, such as Syd's birthday AND her ballet recital being cancelled, and more on how I'll be able to focus on gardening all summer for once (no mid-summer vacation and coming back to half-dead, deer-eaten, weedy veggies), and lots of home and yard projects (I spent more of my stimulus check than was reasonable on a giant geodesic climbing dome for the backyard...).

Although if the library doesn't open back up this month, next month's reading list is going to be all... I don't know, lawnmower repair manuals and cereal boxes?

What are YOU reading this month?

No comments: