Monthly Archives: August 2022

Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

This summer the boys and I read an abridged version of Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, written in 1864. I have to admit that this story was quite entertaining!

L is interested in the concept of Earth (as well as outer space), so I think he was interested in it because it was about the earth. A was not deeply interested, but did pick up on the fact that there was hot lava (!), which is a game we love to play.

I was interested in which aspects of the story were intentionally fantastical and which aspects were a result of changing beliefs and scientific information. What they thought about Earth 150+ years ago was dramatically different from what we now believe and understand.

The book had me asking questions like which is the deepest cave, and where is the deepest bore hole in the world. I also learned, from the Wikipedia page, that this book represents an early version of the idea of time travel, a literary concept that would be deeply expanded in the decades to follow (reaching it’s fulcrum, imho, in 1985 with the film Back to the Future). All in all it was a cool book, one that was gripping and suspenseful, but also interesting in both its literary and geological explorations.


Orwell’s Roses by Rebecca Solnit

True to form, my “breezy summer beach read” was neither breezy nor read on a beach. Instead, I read Rebecca Solnit’s 2021 book, Orwell’s Roses. Solnit is an incredibly prolific author, and I like her work, but it is heavy and deep, and I rarely feel up to the task. However, at the beginning of the summer, this copy caught my eye at the local library, so I checked it out and read it whenever grading was complete and babies were asleep.

Here’s the copy that I read.

This book is about Orwell. Politics. The roses that he grew at his cottage. His interest in gardening and the natural world, and the hope that can be found there. Writ large, the book is about labor and freedom and politics and all of the themes of Orwell’s own writing, reflecting on labor and illness in Orwell’s time and also today. Solnit draws links between political strife that Orwell wrote about and the political strife of today.

As you know from my Instagram, I am interested in plants and gardening, especially flowers. I love the idea of growing food in whatever piece of earth one might inhabit. I like my own sheep, chickens, and flowers. I love to take a close look at a plant and watch it as it changes throughout the seasons and over the years. Evidently, Orwell and I have that in common. Unlike Orwell (and Solnit), however, I am less insightful and imaginative when it comes to politics, so I appreciated Solnit’s ability to meld the two together in ways that helped me learn and see these subjects all in a new light.

When I start reading Solnit, I think “This is mostly boring and only a little interesting,” and those thoughts are interspersed with with absolutely lovely prose and engaging content, and I love that about her writing. Reading Solnit is like the good feeling I have after I eat my vegetables and get my exercise. When it comes to nonfiction, Solnit is the realest deal. She also gives me permission to go on long tangents, and take up words and space, because it is meaningful to me, and trust that it will be meaningful to others as well.