reading in 1990

Reading in 1990

I started the year with a Miss Read and with a new Armistead Maupin. My reading radically decreased this year, and I don’t remember why. In June and September, I only read one book.  How could that be? What was I doing?

I gave such a high number of stars to Moving House that I am going to re-read it.  Lois Duncan is a favourite writer of young adult suspense novels.  I enjoyed the novelization of my favourite show of the time, Beauty and the Beast.

I discovered Dorothy Gilman’s Mrs. Pollifax mystery series.  I read many of them this year.  In later years, I began to find them tedious, and they are one of the author collections that I did not keep.  However, I loved her memoir that I read years later.

In February, I went to my first big Northwest Flower and Garden Show.  I think I had attended a Seattle garden show in an earlier year, when it was much smaller.  I was still feeling great exhilaration at being single, even when taking the bus to work.  But on the day that I took the bus to the garden show, the bus was late because of snow.  I got to the show’s seminar room just as the doors were closing for a lecture by famed English gardener Rosemary Verey.  I begged and implored and was even misty eyed, and the door guard let me go in and stand in the back.  Seeing Verey speak was transformative, as were all the other wonderful speakers that the garden show used to bring.

I hope that next winter’s staycation project will be to write up all the notes I have taken at gardening lectures over the years.

My friend Hilary made a brief visit to the show to walk around the display gardens with me.  I had met her at my gym the previous year and we were close friends.  She had been friends with Chris, as well, and had encouraged me mightily to become single again.


I still have the poster.

She and I went out to delicious restaurant meals and went dancing maybe once a week.  I just don’t think that is the explanation for my lack of reading.

Hilary, a fashion icon, kept trying to make me over. She was so funny that I let her get away with it.

In the early spring, Allan visited me with his daughter.

Pearl, with Valene.

Heartbreaker P had taken on a bar near downtown Seattle.  (He would become famous in some circles, which is why I don’t put his name.) He gave me the mirrors that had been behind the bar, and Bryan helped me affix them to the inside of my fence.  When I walked onto my back porch the next morning, I thought the fence had fallen down.

Sparks mirrors and roses


My housemate, Wilum, and Hilary. We were about to go out dancing at P’s new bar.

In June, the only book I read was not-Mrs-Pollifax The Tightrope Walker by Dorothy Gilman.  What was I doing with my time?  I suspect that because I was now obsessed with gardening I gardened till dark after cleaning jobs and the gym.

(The books in the screen shot are in reverse order.  Before Dorothy Gilman, I had a new Kinsey Milhone and  Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell’s nom de plume for her darker stories) and some more Miss Read.

I read my first Laurie Colwin, Happy all the Time.  That did not start the Colwin reading spree that would come later in life.

I re-read It Ends with Revelations by Dodie Smith.  I love her for I Capture the Castle; her biggest fame is from writing The 101 Dalmations.

In the summer, Barbara came to visit me.  I love this photo.  We both agreed that it would have been better if she were reading something with a milder title than A Taste for Death.

Barbara’s photo of me

My garden was becoming amazing.


In the summer, Carol moved in with me and Wilum and we enjoyed a happy and peaceful household.  I’d think that maybe pleasant socializing kept me from reading more, but I recall that Carol, an avid reader, read for hours in the living room.

Carrie Fisher’s Surrender the Pink was good, and I went on with Georgette Heyer mysteries, a new Tony Hillerman, a new Ruth Rendell, and other random mysteries.  I liked Freaks Amour; when I read the description on Goodreads, it sounds awfully grim.  Three gardening books, In Search of Lost Roses and The Perennial Gardener, and American Cottage Gardens made an impact.  I started collecting old roses.

In September, I only read one book, A Blunt Instrument, a quick and easy mystery by Georgette Heyer.

Karen came all the way from Ithaca to visit me.  We had been a happy couple for a brief while in 1980.  When Mount Saint Helens blew, she was so afraid that the west coast would fall into the sea that she moved back to Ithaca.  1990 was the last year I saw her. We still write to each other at Christmas.


At the end of the year, my reading picked up again although to nothing as many as previous years.  I discovered Angela Thirkell.  I liked her books but not enough to pursue many more of them. December featured gardening books.  I am sure that I read The Year in Bloom by Ann Lovejoy in 1988 and forgot to write it down.  Now I had the sequel, The Border in Bloom.  I discovered Allen Lacy with The Garden in Autumn, a book that has continued to inspire me over the years. I have all those books along with The Little Bulbs on the shelf in front of me.

me, autumn 1990, in a garden mirror

The last book of the year was a thriller called The Beast Must Die, by Nicholas Blake.  I rated in highly.  I’d like to re-read it.  So many of the books I read over 20 years ago are not in our library system, and they will only accept so many interlibrary loans at a time.

In December, Seattle had an unusally big snow storm.  The memory I wrote about it has a denouement that still amuses me:

A massive snow storm resulted in me walking home all the way from a Capitol Hill housecleaning job with snow over my shoes. My client, Beth Loftus, came home early from work with her car stuck a mile from her house; she advised me to head home immediately. I had an appointment at Country Doctor for a fever and ear infection and had to beg them to see me as they were closing early. They did, and advised “Don’t get your ear cold!” Off I went, and the wind blew icy snow into my face, and the articulated buses were sprawled helplessly all over the roads. I stopped in the U. District and rang the bell at the apartment building of Bryan’s old friend Megan, but she was still at work. So I trudged on through Wallingford to Aurora and on home. By the time I got to the door, my hands were so cold I could not hold my key, and loud music kept Carol and Wilum from hearing my knock. Finally I managed to open the door, feeling like I had barely survived a huge adventure. The next morning, Carol and I walked up to Mae’s Cafe (me with my cold ear!) and the wind chill was, she said, like the Montana of her childhood. I had never felt such cold. My feeling of survival was somewhat deflated when I spoke to my seventy year old friend, Pat, retired teacher and basket-maker who lived nearby, and she told me matter-of-factly that she too had walked home from Northwest Harvest on Capitol Hill during the same storm.
I have a post right here of all my garden photos from 1990.

reading in 1989

reading and life, 1989

Chris and I began 1989 in the UK, finishing up a three and a half week Christmas trip to see his parents, Yorkshire, glorious Whitby, Oxford, and London.  We had experienced considerable stress, not being good at traveling together as it turned out.  If you look at the blog posts, you’ll see him usually walking well ahead of me out of exasperation at the amount of time I spent taking photos.

I lugged home a case full of British gardening books.  One thing Chris and I did agree on was stopping at used bookstores.  If only I could have carried more.

A gift from Chris’s parents was the suggestion from his mother that I read Miss Read.  Chris’s mother described Miss Read as “rather twee”.  I immediately loved her books and began to read them all, out of order because I was finding them at used bookstores.  I may have brought some back with me.  (Also read the autobiography of Patrick Macnee because I loved The Avengers.  Bryan and I had used to have a Saturday night potluck with friends just to watch it.  When I had facilitated a marriage by running a personal ad for one of Bryan’s friends, it had included The Avengers as an interest.  When the marriage produced a child, they named her Emma.)

The Thrush Green series is my favourite of the Miss Reads, closely followed by the Village series.  Howards of Caxley and The Market Square are a stand alone duo set further in the past (and so good!)

Remember, the screen shots are in reverse order and you can click to biggify.

Margaret Atwood came out with Cat’s Eye, a favourite of mine.  Ann McCaffrey produced a new Dragonriders book which I liked. Ian McEwan, Ruth Rendell and Patricia Highsmith and Lee Smith continued to be beloveds of mine.  Also Iain Banks, although he lost me later when he started writing science fiction. I was still reading George RR Martin because of the Beauty and the Beast television series.

I started The Provincial Lady series by E.M. Delafield and read my first Gertrude Jekyll gardening book.

I discovered Sue Grafton!  Hers is one series that I read in order.  I am still reeling that she died in December 2017 before she could write Z is for Zero.

Some of the gardening books I brought back from the UK are so obscure that I had to add them to Goodreads:  Outlines of a Small Garden and Colour Hedges.  

The Lord Won’t Mind and Forth Into Light are two of a WWII era gay trilogy set in the UK.

Marlys Millhiser wrote The Mirror, which I liked so much I’d read anything by her.  I can’t recall if I liked Willing Hostage. I had a little notebook with favourite authors, and which books I already had by them, that I would carry into a any used book shop.

Below: I discovered Ann Tyler and soon went on a reading spree.

Plants for Problem Places was a book I frequently referred to over all the years till internet searches came along.  I delightedly discovered Christopher Lloyd’s gardening books.

The self help book in this batch says I was looking for something. A different road?

I love old fashioned and sweet Elizabeth Goudge and re-read two of her books.

I remember reading the George RR Martin series, Wild Cards, was kind of a hard slog.

By summer, I had created a beautiful garden.  Bryan helped by building me a solid fence to give privacy from the back alley.

Bryan building my fence and cutting a wavy top.

I grew a patch of sunflowers:

I was getting ever more annoyed that while Chris would always want me to listen to the latest poem, song, or story he had written, and while I accompanied him to spoken word and open mike nights where he would read or sing, he showed almost no interest in my transitory art of making a garden.  The passion flower in the lower right of the photo below led to an ultimatum; when he had no desire to even come have a look at the thrilling moment when it had finally bloomed, I told him I was not going to read another thing he had written until he took some interest in my art. I asked him how happy he was in the relationship on a scale of 1-10 and he said an 8, and I believe he was rather surprised when I said my number was about a 2.

He tried to show an interest after that, and installed this window in the fence:

We did not see each other much over the late summer because he had taken on an evening job, and was sometimes out of town for work.  I was loving the solitude and evenings to myself.  (Wilum was still living with us but also worked evenings and was the most unobtrusive housemate imaginable.)

I visited my friend Barbara, who had moved to Eugene, and we went to the beach (photos here) and had some long talks about what I was going to do.  Oh, Barbara.  I met her in a self help workshop about breaking up, in ’87, post-heartbreak, and we had become fast friends.  Here’s a photo of us from her birthday, August 1987.

What a darling she was. We lost touch in the mid 90s.

Meanwhile I had plenty of time at home for reading.  I read the Aaron Elkins mysteries, and discovered Tony Hillerman’s mysteries on Bryan’s recommendation.

Ann Tyler may have imparted some relationship wisdom, and when I discovered Fay Weldon, she may have imparted some fierceness and cynicism.

In the fall, Bryan and his mom, Louise, harvest the pears from my Bartlett pear tree.

Below: Replay by Ken Grimwood is a scintillating science fiction (or fantasy) novel about a man who relives his life over and over.  After the horrible personal time that Chris and I had had in England, I had thought about it for a few months and then started going out to lunch sometimes with heartbreaker P from ’87.  He’d been calling and asking now and then for a year. Even though our renewed friendship was just occasional and purely platonic, I thought about the Replay plot sometimes and about things I could have done differently if I had another go.

More Christopher Lloyd and a gardening classic, The Purest of Pleasures.

Goodreads told me today that The Home by Penelope Mortimer (a favourite author) is sort of a sequel to The Pumpkin Eaters, which I read in the 70s.  Now I must read both again.

I tried a Sara Peretsky and did not like it.  I indulged in some comfort reading with the good old Beany Malone series.   This was the third time I had read it (or part of it).  I think I know why I love that old fashioned 1950s series so much.  There was a part of me that, in another life, would have liked to settle down with one person and eventually have a 50th year anniversary.

I learned today that The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing has a sequel…so now I must read both.

In the late fall, Chris quit the evening job, said he wanted our marriage to be better, and that he would work on it.  He started trying harder than I was.

I was reading a mix of favourite authors: Fay Weldon, although I eventually found her too brittle, PG Wodehouse, Joan Aiken, Margaret Drabble,  and some books I don’t remember.  I discovered John Sherwood’s light and fun gardening mystery series.

A new Dick Francis, a new Joseph Hansen (not Dave Brandstetter though, sadly), and a new Iris Murdoch came in December.  And yet another of those pesky Dragonriders books.

Toward the very end of the year, Chris and I had been to marriage counseling to not much avail.  I felt like the counselor saw no hope for us.  Looking back, I believe Chris was really trying to change and I was not appreciative of that.  Suddenly, Heartbreaker P from ’87 thought he and I should reunite and turned on the romance.  To my regret now, I fell for what my mother would have called a “snow job”. Fooled me twice… Although our brief reunion lasted only into very early 1990, it brought the end of Chris and I.  I used to think the blame for the end of our marriage was about 50-50.  Now I feel I should claim considerably more of it.

If I thought that the result of unwillingly carrying a torch for two and a half years was going to be a Georgette Heyer result, I definitely ended up with more of a sad Iris Murdoch story.  Although as I said before, it could be worse, it could have been a Patricia Highsmith or Ruth Rendell ending. (Ruth Rendell was so noted for her grim and sad endings that it was a shock to me when I eventually read one book by her that had lovers happily reunited at the end.)

I asked P why in the world he had decided to wreak such havoc when his intentions had been deliberately impermanent.  He said that he did not like Chris, wanted to bring that relationship to and end, and had therefore done me a favour.  In the long run, I think maybe he did both Chris and I a favour.  Chris remarried, had a child, and became a successful writer.  I ended up at the beach in a gardening career that might otherwise have never happened.

By early 1990, any semblance of friendship with P was permanently done. I managed to cast off much of the sadness and not sink back into the pit of despair of ’87. Sometime shortly after Chris moved out, in early January 1990, I was standing at a bus stop waiting to go to work.  Chris had often given me rides to work so you’d think I’d be depressed to be back on the bus. Instead, I felt a memorable joy that I was free again.  I remember that moment so strongly 28 years later.

The last book I read in 1989 was Miss Manners’ Guide for the Turn of the Millennium.

reading in 1988

1988: the biggest reading year 

It was the biggest reading year since I started keeping my book list.  I might have read more horse story books during a childhood year.  Chris and I were competitive about reading.

Click on the screenshots to embiggen the covers. My reading began with some Cat Who mysteries.  Nowadays, I tell people I did not like this series at all, and yet back then…I gave them a star on my book list.

Below: The screenshots are in reverse order.  So I went on with some more Cat Whos.  I gave the book 79 Squares two stars (meaning I loved it very much).  I remember nothing.  Goodreads tells me it is about an old man and a garden, and so I have put in an interlibrary loan.

Madeleine ‘Wrinkle in Time‘ L’Engle is a favourite children’s writer.  For some reason, I picked Arm of the Starfish to re-read; I also re-read one of the glorious Green Knowe children’s fantasy series, probably because I found them in a used book store.

I discovered novelist Meg Wolitzer and would eventually go on to enjoy all her books. Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer got a “loved it” star.

I found another excellent Iain “Wasp Factory” Banks books to read, and another beloved Blandings by Wodehouse.  I re-read Joan Aiken’s The Crystal Crow and Foul Matter in the proper order (like that); they are loosely connected.  Foul Matter was one of my favourite novels.

In late January, Chris and I went to Cincinnati.  You can see some photos of that trip here.

Thom, Chris’ playwright friend, recommended to me that I read Lee Smith.  I had never had the slightest desire to read “Southern Fiction” but since he offered me a paperback, I gave her a try.  She is wonderful.  I read at least one of her novels, maybe two, while we were visiting, and more when we got home.  (With Chris, it was acceptable to read in company.)

Below, the books are in reverse order.  At a wonderful used bookstore, I found some old books by E.M. Delafield, a writer quite obscure except for her Provincial Lady series.  I look back in regret that I only bought three of her old hardbacks.  They are hard to find.  I’ve gotten a few through interlibrary loan, and there are still some I have not read.

My most darling Iris Murdoch had a new book for me to read.  I read a series about a young fellow named Pennington and apparently enjoyed it, and I re-read a favourite book, Linnets and Valerians, by Elizabeth Goudge.  (I recently bought a copy to re-read soon.)  I read a book by Dodie “I Capture the Castle” Smith and I am sure it must have been good.

In Cincinnati. I also must have found the very old book Gardens in Color.  My garden was a disaster.  I had been in so much emotional lovelorn distress in the summer of 87 that, during a long drought, I was unable to get off my couch of tears to water the garden, and some of my grandma’s shrubs (an azalea and more) completely died.  I did not know what to do in spring of ’88 other than weed and remove the dead plants.  Back then, I mostly grew tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, and potatoes, and just maintained what shrubs, trees, and roses my grandma had once planted.

Below: More Cat Whos and Martha Grimes, both of which I remember not being great.  An memoir (apparently) of a Keith Waterhouse, about which I can find nothing, except that he wrote the fairly well known Northern England novel Billy Liar, which I also read at Chris’s suggestion.  (Chris was from Leeds.)  We influenced each other’s reading, or at least he influenced mine.

I found two Walter Tevis books to read.  If you like chess, do read The Queen’s Gambit.  I remember loving it.  I own it and I think Allan, who liked chess, should read it.

Dick Francis provided a new book!

I added Carson McCullers to my Southern reading.

I hated Less Than Zero; Chris liked it.  I wanted to love Oranges are the Only Fruit but only liked it.

Chris and I got married in March, at the Two Bells Tavern.  (We hung out there, and he had presented a play there that he had written called Map of the World.)  Wilum was the matron of honor, and the officiant was the pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church, who had very responsibly made us have a couple of counseling sessions with him first to make sure he thought the marriage would work.

flowers from a florist and my garden

I was always proud of myself at that time that I remained friends with most of my exes, and a number of them even from way past were at the wedding: among them Maridee, Carol, the young Joey Ramone look-alike from autumn 87, Mark from the Palouse, and Bryan.

Maridee and Bryan at the wedding

P, the heartbreaker from ’87, with whom I had remained friends in a sort of tormented way, told me shortly after the wedding that he had left town that weekend; he said “I couldn’t stand to watch you get married.”  I found THAT interesting indeed.  I had an intense Georgette Heyer-ish moment after the ceremony, when Bryan hugged me and I thought suddenly, “I married the wrong one!”  Or maybe that moment would belong to a more serious writer of domestic drama.  Georgette would have had us figure this out JUST in time before the wedding (and so would a Bollywood movie).  If Ruth Rendell had written the story, someone might have died.

It was not long after that that Chris asked me to stop being friends with P.  In an unusually tractable way, I agreed, probably because it was still difficult for me.

We went on with our reading.  Some I don’t remember at all, not surprising after 30 years.  Maybe it is more surprising how many I do remember.

I loved all by Carson McCullers and Ian McEwan and Margaret Drabble.  And the Band Played On was a rare to me and excellent non fiction, and because I loved Dick Francis, I read his book about jockey Lester Piggot.  Scott Spencer wrote Endless Love, which is actually good, and is probably why I read Waking the Dead.

A Fatal Inversion by Barbara Vine (Ruth Rendell) became one of my favourite books.

I remember Surprising Myself as a good gay novel, and it must have made an impression because I still own it.

I long to find a copy of 35 cent Thrills by Joyce “The Blue Chair” Thompson.  One of the stories MAY have a quotation that I love that goes something like this: Restaurants, I love restaurants.  To eat in one is not nearly as important as just to be in one.  We are all projectiles (?) in lightless, airless space, hurtling from restaurant to restaurant.  My copy of the book disintegrated or was destroyed by a cat, or dampness.

Chris suggested two good Southern books by Clyde Edgerton, Raney and Walking Across Egypt.  Chris liked author William Boyd.  I found I could not stand him (Boyd, that is).

I read a science fiction by a favourite, Alfred Bester.  Science fiction or fantasy were rare for me now.

I tried an Edna O Brien (Girls in Their Married Bliss) and while you would think I’d love it, I did not.   I was still big on Nina Bawden and Elizabeth Bowen (further down this page).

In early summer, we went on a weekend to San Juan Island, where I saw this hotel…

….and where I had a revelation in Friday Harbor, looking into someone’s garden and seeing old fashioned cottage garden with bachelor buttons and probably cosmos.  In a café, I saw this bouquet:

From then on, I thought of it as That Bouquet, the one that changed my life by inspiring me to be a real gardener.  I still did not know quite how to begin.

Room at the Top and Life at the Top, novels of Northern England, must have been suggested by Chris.  I discovered the hilarious gay novelist Stephen McCauley.  Chris suggested the great Three Men in a Boat.  

I discovered that Georgette Heyer had also written mysteries and also began the excellent mystery series by Robert Campbell; the book that says no image available was his 600 Pound Gorilla.

I re-read  books from childhood, two one of the Beany Malone series that I still dote on, and The Twenty-One Balloons which made a big impression on me as a child, and Squib, part of the Harriet the Spy series.  I gave two stars (LOVE) to Brother of the More Famous Jack, of which I have no memory.

In the late summer, I had wrenched my back at work (still housecleaning) and was barely hobbling, but I was determined to go to the Tilth harvest fair to hear a speech by Ann Lovejoy.  I had been reading her gardening columns in the Seattle Weekly.  Chris accompanied me, and I have a memory that perhaps another friend was there.  That was the day I became garden-obsessed.  Thank you, Ann.  You can read more about Ann’s talk (and That Bouquet) here.

I finally began to read gardening books, starting with Green Thoughts.  Rather cosmically, that is a book that was given to me in 2017 and that I intend to soon re-read.  I read Onward and Upward in the Garden for the third time.  I think that up til 1998, it was the ONLY gardening book I had read, probably because of Katharine S White’s connection to the New Yorker.

I also discovered Tony Hillerman.  As usual, I was reading books that I acquired used, so I did not read his mystery series in strict order.


Here at the New Yorker was most enjoyable.  I still own it.  I subscribed to the New Yorker at that time.

I know I should have liked The Great Gatsby better than I did.  I discovered mystery writer Jan Van der Wetering and read through a series by him, of which I remember nothing.

Such a Pretty Face: Being Fat in America…I recommend it. Here is the description from Goodreads:  “Despite this obsession with weight control, there is little serious discussion of the deeper meaning of obesity. In a way, obesity is as powerful a taboo as sexuality was for the Victorians.
This book argues that the effort to lose weight should be secondary to an understanding of the mythology of fat. Being fat is seen as much more than a physical condition. Fat women are stereotypically viewed as unfeminine, either in flight from sexuality or sexual in some forbidden way, intentionally antisocial, out of control, hostile, aggressive.
Using case studies, moving, sometimes painful, autobiographical accounts, and observing such organizations as a fat rights society, Overeaters Anonymous, and a children’s diet camp, Marcia Millman reveals how people live with the burden of these stereotypes and explores the truth or falsity of them. This book proves the humanness, the defiance, vulnerability, self-doubt, courage, and even the beauty of those who violate our arbitrary standards of physical beauty. It sees them as whole people, to whom attention must be paid.

Below, the end of the year’s reading.  I read the science fiction book by George RR Martin because of living his fantasy television show, Beauty and the Beast.  A Very Private Eye by Barbara Pym presages my love of memoirs.

A new Dick Francis and a new Ruth Rendell, and the last book of the year was a brilliant Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, House of Stairs.

Out of 153 books, it looks like 14 were non fiction (some about gardening, and one which I do not recommend: Rock Wives.)  That is a non fiction increase from previous years.

In December, Chris and I went to the UK for Christmas with his parents.  You can read about that trip starting here.

reading in 1987

life and books in 1987:

There’s more “life” in this book post because it was that kind of year.

I started out the year reading as much as usual: Patricia Highsmith, Ruth Rendell, Joseph Hansen.

In February, I met a man through the Weekly personals and fell madly in love.  I’ll just call him P.

me, infatuated

I could, but won’t, share an accompanying photo of P looking equally infatuated.

At this time, I finally ended my lingering and low-key romance with Bryan; we had been drifting along indecisively.  We remained good friends for many years. Looking back in time, it would have been a good moment for me to remember that there is no man to compare to a man who reads Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer, but I seem to have been looking for more excitement.  P. was a non reader, except for one book that he read shortly after we met, which he said was the only book he’d read in years.  He worked as a proofreader at an advertising shop, and said he read enough at work.

The first six weeks were ecstatic, and after that it all went downhill slowly and then rapidly. We were going to live together, marriage was mentioned, then it was not.  We had the same birthday; I turned 32 in March, and he was 30.

In late March, we went to Tucson, where P had a dream of relocating and opening a bar.

Here we are in Mesa, AZ, visiting my parents for a half day at their winter home (in the Good Life Travel Trailer Court)

I do have a blog post with the photos from that trip.

I was reading Barbara Pym for the first time.  The books come out in reverse order, so looking at the bottom of the screen shot below, you can see that I also read the one book that P had read: Neuromancer, maybe the original cyberpunk novel.  I didn’t like it (but didn’t say so).  I wonder if Barbara Pym’s insights helped me to realize that I was so very much not happy.

On the week long trip to Arizona, we stayed with P’s two brothers.  Instead of being social I spent some of my time there re-reading the Tales of the City series.  That was rather rude and I am sure did not make the best impression.  (But one of his brothers liked to go to what he called “titty bars”, and I did not feel entirely at home like I had with Bryan’s liberal family.)

I recall that I liked science fiction writer Margaret St Clair back in the 70s, so I read a book of her short stores.  Tried a J.A. Jance, did not much like it.

At the end of May, I found the fortitude to end the relationship.

By July, I was so depressed and that I sought help.

A counsellor suggested that I read Rebuilding and Creative Visualization.  What I remember from the latter is putting your troubles into a pink bubble and letting them float away.

I did not read much over the summer because I was also somewhat zombified by anti depressants.  In late August, I stopped the anti depressants and was able to read again.

I don’t remember the mysteries, below, by William Marshall, even though I gave them each a star on my reading list.

Looking back now, I think it ironic that shortly after the break up I read Those Who Walk Away (which I did) and A Taste For Death (I was VERY depressed).  I also gave a star to the unremembered Kill Fee.




I do not know what about that three month long relationship had such a powerful effect, but it took me years to get over it.  I still have dreams about it at least three times a year….thirty years later.  I would like to understand this and will probably go to my grave mystified.

All this time, I was cleaning houses full time.

a photo of me at a cleaning job, summer 87

me and Wilum, summer 87

Allan, who lived in Tacoma but worked in Seattle sometimes, used to meet me once a week after work and after my gym sessions and run around Green Lake with me.  I was an obsessive exerciser.  He took this photo:


I remember taking long rides on his motorcycle and going with him to a Donovan concert.  This was all purely platonic; he was married and at the end of that summer his daughter was born.

Back to the books: By September, I was reading steadily again.

Eclipse: a Nightmare is the autobiography of a man who is made blind in an attack, and how he recovers his life.  I might have reread it because blindness is a big fear of mine.  (Non fiction count for the year: three.)

I think The Fur Person was the first May Sarton I ever read.  The Wasp Factory was recommended to me by a friend; it is excellent.  From Goodreads: “Never Come Back is a gripping thriller from 1941, the only novel by John Mair, who was killed in an RAF training accident only six months after it was published.”

Ruth Rendell was my mainstay in 1987.

I have a couple more blog posts from that difficult year:

autumn in the Palouse

houseboat tours 

Just before Halloween, I met Chris through a personal ad.  He was British (a resident alien) and a would-be writer (who has now become a celebrated published writer).  I have written down on that year’s book list that I read a book by him called “The Great Man” in manuscript form.  We were smitten and by Christmas he was living with me and Wilum.

Chris and I out on the town for Halloween (as Sid and Nancy).

continuity: Thanksgiving dinner with Chris and Bryan at Bryan’s parents house

The December books of 1987:

I did not much like Dupe by Liza Cody, but later I would find another series by her to love.  The Mirror by Maryls Millhauser sticks in my mind as a good occult thriller.  I don’t remember The Crying Heart Tattoo although I gave it a star at the time.  The last books I read in 1987 were three Cat Who books.  I remember disliking that series (I don’t like cats to be crime solvers), and yet I started 1988 by reading a few more.

Chris was a voracious reader, and the following year was my highest book count ever.  I think we were in competition to see who could read the most.

reading in 1986

1986: a Wodehousian year

Bryan and I began the year with a visit to a friend of a friend’s cabin on Orcas Island.

I had run a personal ad for a friend of Bryan’s, through which two of his friends ended up getting married (one for better, one for worse). This dog belonged to one of those two women:

I just like the way this photo came out.

reading in bed on Orcas Island

more reading

Early in the year, I decided that I needed to move home to my Green Lake house, mainly because I could no longer stand the suspense and stress of living with a pot farmer.  However, I would have to wait for eight months because of an agreement I had with the two mutual friends who were renting my house.  I also wanted more privacy.  The Queen Anne house had a lot of comings and goings, with band people living with us for awhile and people sleeping on the couch sometimes.  Usually, these were friends of Bryan.  It was nice when my friend Carol, who had been in Japan teaching English, came to visit us for a couple of weeks.

more reading

In June, Bryan and I went to Canada to visit Bry’s brother.

Bryan, his sister Gwyneth, his mother Louise, his brother Morgan, and me

Louise wrote me at Christmas and my birthday for decades later.

In mid summer, our favourite cat, Pudgebear, died at age 4.  We got two more kittens.

Bryan and Orson


me and Bryan at a friend’s house at the end of the summer

In September, I moved back to my Green Lake house, accompanied by kittens Orson and Valene.  (Bryan kept our three older cats.)  Wilum, the gay Lovecraftian horror writer and dear friend who was living with us, decided to move back to Green Lake with me.


Bryan and I were not exactly breaking up, or so we thought. It was complicated. At the very last minute, I suggested I might change my mind.  But the wheels were in motion. We both agreed later it was a mistake. But it was done.

Now for the books.  Clicking on the screen shots will biggify the covers:

Above: I looked forward to a new book each year in the Dave Brandstetter series by Joseph Hansen.

Below: A non fiction: Night Witches about Russian women pilots in WWII.  I think the total for non fiction in 1986 is 7 (out of 119).

I read The Price of Salt, the lesbian novel by Patricia Highsmith, written under her pen name of Claire Morgan.  I do not think I had yet discovered all of Highsmith’s mysteries.  Also the famous Desert of the Heart.

A friend had recommended the comedic British Mapp and Lucia series, which I loved.

A new Iris Murdoch, still my favourite author: The Good Apprentice.  Still loving Joan Aiken.

One evening, Craig, a mutual friend of Bryan’s and mine, was laughing over a book: Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse.  I had heard of Wodehouse and never had any desire to read him, but I decided to try that one.  The next couple of months were quite Wodehousian.  The Blandings Castle books were the best, followed by Jeeves.  I was not much taken with the golfing stories.

I did try reading Francoise Sagan.  While I knew they were good, I was not smitten.

I did not like Mrs. Dalloway.  I don’t remember a thing about Two Serious Ladies, which is so well reviewed that I must read it again.

Ann McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series had a new offering.  I liked the series very much for the ideas even though I did not find it well written.  I found another Joseph Hansen mystery.

Mixed in with Wodehouse, I had a new Amanda Cross, more Margaret Millar, a Joseph Hansen, and a Quentin Crisp.


Above: Reading How to Break Your Addiction to Person hints at my break up with Bryan.  I think, however, that I read it because I had a stupid and annoying mad crush on a bookish friend of Bryan’s and was trying to stop it.  I remember that the crush decreased, so maybe the book helped.

I tried another Earl Emerson mystery and was still not hooked.  I recall being bothered that the Seattle geography was not quite right.

Wilum and I liked the show Knots Landing a lot, and so I read a book about it.

I wish I had kept my big pile of all the Ngaio Marsh books.  I read them all out of order, since I was buying them used.  The library, with its card file and its lack of the books I wanted and no interlibrary loans from elsewhere, was not much help, so at least a third of all the books I read were ones I bought.

How did we find out back then how many books an author had written? The only way I knew was to find the last book in a series, with a book list inside the cover.  Or, I think, sometimes I would go to the library and look in Books in Print.  I read P.G. Wodehouse out of order, also.

I read Philip K Dick’s non-science fiction novels in 1986 and a biography of him, Only Apparently Real, that revealed how much he believed the conspiracy theories from his later books.   To this day, I have saved one unread mainstream novel by him in my PKD collection, The Broken Bubble.  I did not want to be done with his books.

The Ladies of Llangollen: a historic biography, about two women in love in Wales, is excellent.

The New Diary: I was still writing a journal.  I am sorry that I destroyed “the Bryan years” in the early 90s, so that I now only have my mid 70s journals.  I recall that I did not want to re-read all the stupid things I did.  Maybe it is a good thing those diaries are gone; it is bad enough to remember.

I read Drabble’s The Middle Ground again, only two years after the last time.  Maybe I had forgotten I’d read it.  That happens a lot.

In recording these books today, I learned that another favourite author, Nina Bawden, has written a few more adult novels that I’ve missed and two autobiographies, including a tragic one after her husband died in a train crash in 2004.  Interlibrary loan has been placed.

One day when I went in questing fruitlessly for more Margaret Millar in that used bookstore up on Capitol Hill, in an old house on 15th Avenue, the proprietor told me that if I love Millar, I would love Ruth Rendell.  I read The Killing Doll and went on a reading spree.  Rendell soon tied with Iris Murdoch for favourite writer. (I now know the name of the bookstore: It was Horizon Books.)

I read two books about winning money at the horse racing track.  I must have been influenced by Dick Francis to go have a look. I remember almost betting on a horse whose name included the girlfriend of that guy I had a crush on.  “Leslie’s Choice” or some such thing.  I thought it seemed too obvious and did not, and that horse came in at 20 to 1.

Bryan’s mother, Louise, recommended The Uninvited, a great horror novel by Dorothy McCardle.

I had been reading some Martha Grimes mysteries.  I wanted to like them better than I did.

Ruth Rendell!  In Sickness and in Health was a changed title for Vanity Dies Hard.  So that was really just one book, not two (a glitch because it took me awhile today to figure that out).

The only book I read in December was a Star Trek novelization by Vonda Mcintyre. If only all movie novelizations were written by such good writers.  I had company staying with me that month, a friend who’d moved to New York, and I was dating a 22 year old who looked like Joey Ramone.  He was not a reader at all, so there was no longevity to that relationship, but he did end up being a good friend for awhile.  Mutual reading is important, something I should have figured out then…but did not.


reading in 1985

books in 1985: year of mysteries

Bryan and I were renting an imposing but decrepit house on Queen Ann Hill (Seattle) that Bryan and I were renting.  Meanwhile, two of our mutual friends rented my Greenlake house from me.

I had a tiny garden bed next to the driveway.  Most of the land around the house was steeply sloping hillside.

We had devoted one room of the main floor to be our library.   The roof leaked; fortunately, not over the book shelves.

Lucrezia in the bay window

library room bay window

Bryan napping with our favourite cat, Pudge Bear—one of the kittens I had carried in my overalls in a photo from a previous book entry.

There was a difference between my work ethic and Bryan’s (mine was stronger). Sometimes I would go out to work cleaning houses and find Bryan and Orson still napping on the couch when I came home. I can now reveal that he had decided to grow pot in the basement of this house.  I was not thrilled, not being a smoker myself, and I was afraid most of the time. Years later Bryan became a hard-working carpenter and said he had been lazy in those years because he was bored and did not realize that interesting work added quality to life.

His friends hung out at our house a lot, working on cars.

me, early in 1985, photo by Molly Lawless

I spent three weeks of the late spring on a trip back east (paid for by Bryan), then a visit to friends in Ann Arbor, Toronto, and Ithaca.

Karen and Cori in Ithaca

I felt like I missed out on some of the summer fun in the Queen Ann house by taking the trip.

In the early autumn, I took another trip to Santa Fe, which you can read about here.

Bryan and I, 1985, visiting my parents’ place in Yelm.

Now for the books of 1985.  You can click on the screen shots to biggify the photos.

Sometimes a simple gothic mystery/romance by Phyllis A. Whitney or a light novel by Susan Isaacs hit the spot in those days.  Two science fiction books slipped in this year. I don’t think I like Pride of whatever very much.  Sport of Queens is non fiction, about horse racing.

Above: I read Margaret Drabble and discovered Nina Bawden and Ngaio Marsh.  Below: Midnight is a Place by Joan Aiken was a favourite by soon-to-be one of my favourite writers.

Somehow, and I wish I could remember how, I discovered somewhat obscure psychological suspense writer Margaret Millar.  I combed bookstores for her novels, and still have them.  I read through almost all of them this year.  Most of the books were found in an overstuffed bookstore in an old house on 15th Avenue in Seattle.  I wish I could remember its name.

I bet The House of Thirty Cats would still be a great book as a gift to a cat lover.

The incomplete title above is I Have Come Here to Be Alone.  I can remember nothing about it.  I did not much like Don DeLillo and only read one book by him.

Below: More Margaret Millar, a non-mystery novel and two more Dave Brandstetter mysteries by Joseph Hansen.

I remember Conscience Place by Joyce Thompson as being excellent science fiction about discrimination against the disabled.  One of two SF that I read this year.

With The Cuckoo Tree, I figured out that Joan Aiken had written lots more than children’s novels.

I was reading through Josephine Tey.  I tried and did not much like Earl Emerson so only read two.  Oh, look, a Georgette Heyer, and a book by my favourite writer, Iris Murdoch.  I looked forward to a new book by her late each autumn.


Below: A non fiction book for a change, Loose Change, about three women in the 60s, and a feminist novel by Seattle (mostly) science fiction writer Joanna Russ.

Pumping Iron II: The Women is in there because I had become obsessive about weightlifting and aerobics several times a week.

Some young adult novels still appear in my reading. I re-read The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. I learned today that Joan Aiken wrote several more sequels beyond the two I know of.  Seems they all feature her character, Dido, who sort of annoyed me.

The Adventures of Fat Freddy’s cat!  Here is my favourite:

More Ngaio Marsh and Margaret Millar mysteries.  And I began to read Joan Aiken’s adult novels, a mix of suspense and romance and gothic. Foul Matter had been a favourite of mine several years before, so I reread it and still loved it.

Finally, the fourth non fiction of the year, about how to write for children, by Joan Aiken.

Lady Oracle was actually the last book I read in the year, and the only one I read in December because that was our most busy, social month.  I liked my “three Margarets”, Atwood, Drabble, and Millar.  By the time Atwood turned to science fiction some years later, I was so done with that genre that I did not read those books.

I still have all of my Margaret Millar and Joan Aiken and Joseph Hansen collection.  I must have thought less of Ngaio Marsh because I gave up my big stack of paperbacks by her when I moved to a tiny house in Ilwaco in 1994.

In creating this blog post, I learned that Joan Aiken wrote still more books that I have not read.  I must track them down through interlibrary loan.


reading in 1984

The year began with Bryan and I living in my Green Lake house, and later in the summer, Mary (who was not yet Montana Mary) lived with us for awhile. In late summer, 1984, I took a walk home after a cleaning job on Queen Anne Hill and, as was my wont, walked through some alleys. On a dead end alley I came across this house and gasped in awe. There was a for rent sign in the window. Three days later, we had moved in, and Bryan’s friends were renting out my Green Lake house. The roof leaked and there was no heat. We had a cold winter to get through with nought but a wood stove.  Mary moved with us into this gothic and marvelous but uncomfortable space but soon moved to a much more comfortable apartment.  Wilum Pugmire also moved in with us.

The Queen Anne House

The back of the amazing house (it looked southwest over Elliot Bay)

Me and Wilum (Mary’s photo)

Bryan reading in the kitchen

Now to the books!  If you click to embiggen the photos, the titles will be easier to read.

I started with a vampire novel and then read through a short science fiction series by Roger Zelazny.  I have no memory of especially liking it, but I must have since I read the whole thing.

I was still reading lots of young adult novels and thinking about writing one.  (Eventually, Mary and I collaborated on one; it is still sitting in a drawer.  It was about publishing an unauthorized high school newspaper and is now hopelessly out of date.)

I recommend The Pigman by Paul Zindel for a classic young adult novel.

I reread I Capture the Castle, one of my favourite novels of all time.  It had been recommended to me in seventh grade by my favourite English teacher, Ellen Sherlock.  I got a lot more out of it at age 29 than I had at age 12.

In this batch, I have a non fiction book for a change: De Profundis by Oscar Wilde.    I was reading through P.D. James, slowly, and I discovered Josephine Tey and Ngaio Marsh in 1984.

I love Miss Manners!  I discovered John Bellairs when I read The House With a Clock In Its Walls—so wonderful that I immediately read all he had to offer.

I just made an interlibrary loan in order to reread The Fortunate Miss East, which seems to be about England and gardening.

I discovered Dorothy Sayers but was reading them out of order.

A friend of Bryan’s lent me Banker by Dick Francis, leading to the year’s obsession.  I might as well call it The Year of Dick Francis.  I read 14 by him in September.  My favourite is In The Frame, even though I think the best one is Whip Hand. Even though he always had male protagonists, I appreciated that he wrote strong and well portrayed women characters.

I did not read as much science fiction in ’84.  I remember reading the Gaia trilogy by John Varley and not loving it…yet I read it all, same with the Zelazny series.  I often found that science fiction had better ideas than writing, with some exceptions like PK Dick and Elizabeth A Lynn and Walter Tevis.  I reread Mockingbird in ’84 even though it has been only two years since my last reading of it.

The Catch Trap by Marion Zimmer Bradley was not SF.  It was a gay romance set in a circus.  I will usually avoid any book with a circus theme, but I loved this one and I own it…and might re-read it.

I read my first of the diaries of Anais Nin; this was when I realized how much I enjoyed memoirs, but it would be years yet before I read many more in that genre.

In December, my last book of the year and the only one I read that month was Birds of America by Mary McCarthy.  Decembers with Bryan and his friends and family were busy.  I think this was the one where his sister Gwyneth, who was living in Toronto at the time, came to stay with us.