Sunday, January 31, 2021

Jacques du Fouilloux's Treatise on Hunting

While researching hunting dogs in sixteenth century France, I discovered Jacques du Fouilloux's treatise, LA VÉNERIE, online at Gallica. This work, first published in 1561, served as the preeminent reference work on hunting for almost two centuries. Du Fouilloux discusses not only methods and techniques for hunting deer, boar, wolf, and other game, but provides astute observations on the habits of forest animals that have since been corroborated by naturalists. Written in clear and engaging sixteenth-century prose, the work offers a fascinating insight into the hunting culture of the time. Amply illustrated with contemporary woodcuts, LA VÉNERIE is a joy to peruse.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ten Favorite Reads of 2020

Despite the trauma of the pandemic (or maybe because of it), 2020 turned out to be an amazing year of reading for me. I managed to finish 44 books by the end of December, a personal record since I began keeping track in 2012 (you can see my yearly lists in the sidebar). I've been an avid reader my entire life, and I can hardly remember a year during which book after book not only entertained but impressed me. As a reader, it was exhilarating to read so many great novels; as a writer, it was both inspiring and somewhat daunting to encounter such craft. Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullogh, a powerful novel in verse about the seventeenth century artist Artemisia Gentileschi, was far and away my favorite of the year, but nine other books stood out as particular gems:

Parrot & Olivier in America (2010) by Peter Carey
Hamnet (2020) by Maggie O'Farrell
Call Upon the Water (2019) by Stella Tillyard
Beheld (2020) by TaraShea Nesbit
Sugar Money (2018) by Jane Harris
Light Changes Everything (2020) by Nancy E. Turner
The Blood of Flowers (2007) by Anita Amirrezvani
Varina (2018) by Charles Frazier
How Much of These Hills Is Gold (2020) by C Pam Zhang

Several other books wanted to sneak onto this list, but what good is a list if it includes everything? Among the contenders were books written by writers I know personally: Revelations (coming in 2021) and The Vanishing Point (2006) by Mary Sharratt, A Trace of Deceit (2019) and A Dangerous Duet (2018) by Karen Odden, Drowning with Others (2019) by Linda Keir, The Giant (2020) by Laura Morelli, and Dreamland (2020) by Nancy Bilyeau. Since I could never choose among the babies of my friends, I make it a rule not to include their books on my yearly list of favorites. All of their books, however, are excellent reads that I highly recommend.

Over the holidays, I rearranged furniture in my house, which entailed reorganizing my bookshelves and rediscovering the many books I've bought but never yet read. I'm looking forward to tackling some of them this year, along with books yet to be published. I've already almost finished Diane Setterfield's intriguing The Thirteenth Tale (2006) as I aim to hit my goal of 50 books for 2021. Having resolved to spend less time on the internet and more time with my nose in a book, I'm excited to see what the new year brings.

What was your favorite novel of 2020? Did you set and reach a reading goal? 

In any case, I wish you many happy reading adventures during the coming year!