Gardens of the High Line ~ Oudolf and Drake

Gardens of the High Line
Piet Oudolf and Rick Darke

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

Last year, to celebrate our 40th birthdays, one of my best friends and I bought tickets to a Broadway show, and spent the weekend in New York. On Sunday, before boarding our respective modes of transportation home, we took a walk along the High Line. While I did enjoy the walk, that really wasn’t my primary impetus for purchasing the book. It seemed like it could be a good guidebook, especially since, as this year-old Facebook post mentions, one of the many ideas floating around for Hartford’s I-84 viaduct is to create something akin to the High Line. Already we have the garden at Phoenix Plaza (official name?) which does something very similar.

On page 13, we are still in the book’s introduction. There is a paragraph that aptly describes what you will find on the forthcoming pages.

[The High Line] is a hybrid space, built on contradictions: it’s an art museum on an industrial structure. It’s a community space running a mile and a half through several neighborhoods. It’s a botanical garden suspended over city streets. Unlike Central Park, it’s an immersion in the city, not an escape from it.

Kind of like the library for which I bought the book…The book contains essays, and great photos of the High Line in all four seasons.

Worth checking out: Yes (both the book and the High Line itself)


The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane ~ See

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane
Lisa See

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, OneClick Digital e-book, print version; Library Connection consortium (several formats available)

Further information and reviews at Goodreads.

I’m a big tea drinker. Historical fiction, featuring tea? Yes, please. I started reading this as an e-book, which made it difficult to determine which was page 13. Should I use the digital or analog page 13? I decided to find the print copy and use the analog, just to keep things uniform.

A month or two ago I set out to buy more e-books. I found Tea Girl somewhere on a list of popular books, and it fit some of my other criteria. The price was right (e-book pricing for libraries is much higher than if you buy something on your own), our analog copy was circulating well, and more importantly, I wanted to diversify our author offerings.

As I started reading, I was immediately struck by how everyone was called by their rank or position: First Brother, Second Sister-in-Law, etc. We are reading about a family, and a rather close knit one at that, and yet their given names are only used for official reasons.

On page 13, Girl has just been found taking a bite of some food, stolen by another child. Both children’s families follow Akha (their tribe) Law, and cleansing ceremonies must be performed to right this wrong. I loved the exchange.

“May I ask on which day of the cycle your son was born?”

“San-pa was born on Tiger Day, the ninth day of the cycle,” his mother answers, trying to be helpful. 

My family members shift their weight from foot to foot in response to this regrettable information.

The discomfort that comes from immediately recognizing that what you just heard isn’t good, is so easy to picture.

We are still getting to know all the characters at this point. It is still the first chapter, but the author is doing a very good job of setting the scene. I’m enjoying her writing style, and am looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Worth checking out: Yes

Composting Basics ~ Ebeling

Composting Basics
Eric Ebeling with Carl Hursh and Patti Olenick

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads

We are going practical here. I have been thinking about composting for a while. Operative word, thinking. We recently ordered a number of new gardening and horticulture books, and this one was among them. Will this spur me into action? Time will tell.

On page 13, the authors describe the balance of materials (browns and greens) needed for the microbes to do their composting thing. Not exactly riveting information, but necessary. Also on page 13 is a photo of a wire bin and a caption about storing greens or browns for future use. I am never a fan of repeating information, and this photo/caption combo does just that. It is a technique used in a few ways throughout the book; I find it distracting.

This is the first book I have finished. I would say “read cover to cover,” but I did pretty much skip the chapter on worm composting. Overall, it is a decent introduction. I feel like I could have Googled the topic and found the same information, though. Many pages may be skipped if you are not building the particular type of item (bin or screener) for which they are providing instructions. I think they overdid it with construction detail.

Worth checking out: Yes, but not a must-have for anyone’s personal collection.

Vulgar Tongues ~ Décharné

Vulgar Tongues: An Alternative History of English Slang
Max Décharné

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads

Sometimes a title just stands out. When selecting nonfiction, I have taken advice from a Twitter acquaintance and primarily choose books that have at least two good reviews. Vulgar Tongues fit that criteria, and I was pretty sure we didn’t have anything recent on slang in the collection.  The book seems to be fairly jam packed with information. If I don’t finish it, the reason will have more to do with the incompatibility of my slow reading speed and library loan periods than with any lack quality in the work.

On page 13, well, a lot of it can’t be posted in a family-friendly blog entry. The breaking of such taboos is actually the topic on that page. A quote from Iceberg Slim’s novel Trick Baby is followed by Décharné’s comment, “Just thirty words, but there’s something there to offend everybody — and that was, of course, the point.”

While I am concentrating on the early portions of books in these reviews, pages 51-52 (which falls in a no man’s land between the introduction and the first chapter) offer a shout out to West Hartford’s hometown hero, Noah Webster. Webster, as many a school child knows (do all school kids know this, or primarily those who grew up in town/routinely visited their grandparents in West Hartford?) wrote the first American dictionary. As Décharné discusses, in 1790 Webster advocated for spellings such as “ritten,” “waz,” and “indeted.” In his A Collection of Essays and Fugitiv Writings on Moral, Historical, Political and Literary Subjects, Webster wrote, “There iz no alternativ.”

I would like to end this post by congratulating Mr. Webster. It may have taken somewhere in the neighborhood of 220 years, but with the onset of texting and social media, your preferred spellings are finally beginning to take root.

Worth checking out: Yes.

Mad Richard ~ Krueger

Mad Richard
Lesley Krueger

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

Further information and reviews at Goodreads

I don’t remember where I first read about this book. Though I don’t generally buy fiction for the collection, I saw this written up somewhere, and decided we ought to have a copy. One of the selling points was that it has an independent Canadian publisher, and I’ve started looking for selections beyond the mainstream. I’m a fan of historical fiction, and this one had some good reviews.

On page 13, we are still being introduced to Richard Dadd. He’s an artist, and murderer, now spending his days in Bethlem Royal Hospital. Dadd and Charlotte Brontë meet in the first chapter. Page 13 is in the second chapter, where we are learning about Dadd’s childhood.

I’m not too enthusiastic about this one. My eyes keep glazing over while reading the Richard chapters, I think because there’s just too much detail. At first I was looking forward to the Charlotte chapters, but as I’ve continued (I’m about two thirds of the way through), those are no longer holding my interest as much. I haven’t given up, though. I’m still hoping there will be another interaction between the main characters before the novel ends.

Worth checking out: Hesitant yes. I want it to get better.

In The Shadow of the Moon ~ Aveni

In the Shadow of the Moon: The Science, Magic, and Mystery of Solar Eclipses
Anthony Aveni

Available at libraries near me: Hartford Public Library, Library Connection consortium

More information and reviews at Goodreads

I didn’t do everything right during my college years, but I did take a class with Tony Aveni. I sat next to Laurel, who earned fame by creating some sort of scale model of the universe. The only part of it I understood was that she used toothpaste for…orbits? I’m a little sketchy with the details over 20 years later. When you’ve been in the classroom as long as Aveni had been, you end up with a lot of stories. One that has stuck with me pertains to someone answering an exam question. They meant to write “voila,” but instead wrote “viola.” I still think it’s funny, but then, I’m quirky. Another vivid memory is a fellow student sitting at the front of the lecture hall in a Radio Flyer wagon. The student took the pin out of a fire extinguisher, and the wagon sailed to the other side of the room. It really looked like a lot of fun. After 54 years at Colgate (sadly, not a multiple of 13), Aveni retired at the end of 2016. When I had the opportunity to purchase his book for the collection, I went for it.

On page 13, there is a discussion of competitive eclipse chasing. I never imagined such a thing would exist! Aveni writes about people who hire airplanes to fly fast enough so they can spend more time in a total eclipse. That’s pretty nifty!

Up to this point the book has been perfect for someone like me; someone who is interested in the topic, but doesn’t have a scientific background. At the end of chapter 2, Aveni warns that chapter 3 will get into scientific detail. I am actually looking forward to this.

Worth checking out: Definitely

the goal

page 13

13 books

13 weeks


this is my challenge to myself. you are welcome to follow along. beginning soon-ish (june, exact date tbd) i will review new titles, based primarily on page 13.

why so many 13s? friends know; others may figure it out.