Book Review: 21st-Century Yokel by Tom Cox

Goodreads Summary:

21st-Century Yokel explores the way we can be tied inescapably to landscape, whether we like it or not, often through our family and our past. It’s not quite a nature book, not quite a humour book, not quite a family memoir, not quite folklore, not quite social history, not quite a collection of essays, but a bit of all six.

It contains owls, badgers, ponies, beavers, otters, bats, bees, scarecrows, dogs, ghosts, Tom’s loud and excitable dad and, yes, even a few cats. It’s full of Devon’s local folklore – the ancient kind, and the everyday kind – and provincial places and small things. But what emerges from this focus on the small are themes that are broader and bigger and more definitive.

The book’s language is colloquial and easy and its eleven chapters are discursive and wide-ranging, rambling even. The feel of the book has a lot in common with the country walks Tom Cox was on when he composed much of it: it’s bewitched by fresh air, intrepid in minor ways, haunted by weather and old stories and the spooky edges of the outdoors, restless, sometimes foolish, and prone to a few detours… but it always reaches its intended destination.

The book is illustrated with Tom’s own landscape photographs and linocuts by his mother.

My Thoughts:

I thought this book was so fun. I really enjoyed the author’s voice and storytelling style. I loved his run-ins with nature, although some of them made sad. I greatly enjoyed his stories involving his father, who is this larger than life character that made me laugh out loud. His antics cracked me up and he seems like he is a man of indomitable spirit much of the time. I found myself looking forward to the next time that Cox would relay a dad story.

There were some parts that were triggering, that caused me anxiety (Roscoe), and then the chapter about his Nana – beautiful. The picture he paints of this woman, his Nana, who bought her starter home with her new husband, started a family, then lost her husband young, and ended up being in the same home her whole life touched me. Especially when we learn that Nana began filling the back garden with shells, lots of shells, glued up in her back shed building. Then she passes away, and the second owners after her keep the shell house of dreams and even added to it. She just sounded like a tough lady, to keep practical and not really every go anywhere, but to just keep dreaming and finding a way to bring her dream to her. It was a wonderful tale of Nana, and it was obvious that Cox really loved her dearly. She was his Nana.

There were some spooky moody chapters too – particularly the scarecrows that he finds. I didn’t know that this was such a thing in a field anymore! Maybe in an English countryside and farm fields?

Overall I loved this book. I am really looking forward to reading more by this author!! He is a new to me author, that I discovered during Nonfiction November. This book called to me so strongly that I bought it online then and there when I read about it on Secret Library Site’s blog, and then read it as my first, and only, nonfiction read of the month. I wasn’t disappointed!

Hello, December!

The last month of the year. And it is a big one, I think. Such a busy month, with the hustle and bustle, and then the new year right at the end. So many emotions, so much to think about when we allow ourselves those moments to actually slow down enough to think.

One of the names for the full moon this month is the quiet moon. I think about how in the past when the moon acquired this particular name, how quiet it really must have been this time of year, and how far we have come from that. I am trying to find little pockets and moments of time to find that quiet and peace. More family read alouds at night, more screen free days for all of us to unplug and be together. I had time over this holiday weekend to think about it. We spent all long weekend doing things that we needed to do, but also made sure we had plenty of time to just be together in the moment. We took a small hike, where we found evidence of beavers, which was really amazing. Beavers haven’t been in the Detroit River for such a long time, and they are finally moving back in and that is exciting stuff! We bopped around, but on our own time. And it was really lovely. I hope to keep that sense throughout this month, despite having a million things to do. They will get done, and if they don’t I am not going to worry about it. I don’t need to make dozens of cookies – if I only make a few, then that is what we will have. That sort of thing.

That being said, I am actually looking forward to the things that I DO have on our calendar. Making a yule log dessert with my mom, making Empire Biscuits with my mom and sister-in-law, making cookies with sister-in-law and one of our best friends. We do that every year, and every year my friend and I make abysmal cookies while Chrissy makes amazing cookies. Poor Chrissy. Kelly and I are just not great cookie bakers! But it’s not about the cookies, it’s about the memories. We all had babies the same year, and we started this tradition when the babies were just born. Our husbands stayed in the front room with the kiddos while we baked, and it was such fun. Now four years later we are still doing the same thing. I had hoped to be done by December with my holiday shopping, and I almost made it! Just a few more things for my nieces and I can call myself officially done. We celebrate the big Christmas day with our families in happy chaos, and we spend solstice together, having a small little family of us dinner and reading and a hike outside. I think this year we will decorate a tree for the animals as well.

We are also going to dig in and watch all the holiday movie favorites, including my very favorite of all, Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas! I have a feeling Wyatt is going to really love them this year, especially the Mickey Mouse one. And then one night we are going to load up in my brother’s big vehicle, his family, my family, and our mom, to drive through the local lights display. Simple things, nothing too big or too crazy. And of course we will see Santa. We discovered last year that our local metropark does visits with Santa and it was the best experience, so we are doing that again. You make a reservation for one of their three time slots, and there are only about 15 other kids there, tops. The kids make crafts at different stations, and wait for their name to be called; when it is called we go as a family into the room by the big windows in the nature center where Santa will sit, and have the room and the visit all to ourselves. It is so low key and fun and we love it. It is not too overwhelming for my little guy either. We can take our time and just enjoy the entire thing.

So, we have a lot on our plates, but we tried to keep them simple and easy and attainable, with an emphasis on family and friends. It will be a rough month I think emotionally, grieving my aunt and stepfather, but with family and friends I will get through it, we all will, together. Jeanie from Marmelade Gypsy encouraged me to find a way to incorporate memories of them into our lives this holiday, and so we are planning on lighting lanterns outside one night in memory of them.

How about you? What are you looking forward to this December? How do you plan on keeping yourself sane?

My Sunday-Monday Post

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Last week was busy but fun, as I am sure yours was as well! Thanksgiving was hosted by my brother this year, and it was their first time hosting such a large gathering. They did a fantastic job – everyone had fun, and it was so relaxed. Perfection. On Friday we headed to the woods for a walk, opting outside, although we did stop in one store because I wanted to this specific wrapping paper I had seen there earlier. I have no idea why, but a gift wrap with serious faced farm animals wearing Santa hats just tickled me enough that I had to go back for it. Lol. The rest of the weekend we kind of bummed around, finish up our decorating, and basically just hung out together. To quote the Okee Dokee Brothers “we were busy doing nothing on our lazy day. ” It was really nice.

I think I was a little overambitious about how much reading I was going to get done on a short week, although I did manage to finish two books, neither non-fiction though. I did make it through nonfiction November and I loved it. So glad I participated but right now I apparently can read about one nonfiction book a month. Maybe I can bump that up a bit in the coming year.

Read Last Week:

Alone in the Wild was FABULOUS!! I love this series so much, and it just keeps getting better. So good! And then feeling festive I moved on to Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweet Shop, which I also adored. This simple seeming little book actually moved me to tears – twice! I love a good Christmas book and I loved this one.

Reading This Week:

I’m getting a little crazy here again. I will probably more than likely only finish one of these, but I am starting all three. The Call of the Wild and Free will be a slow read for me, that I will read all month long. Anyway, I am getting excited about reading Christmas and holiday themed books! They are so happy usually, and I like that at the holidays.

Posted Last Week

Nonfiction November Week 5 – New to My TBR

What Wyatt’s Reading – November

Watching:

We are still watching Criminal Minds, and we started Shetland on Britbox, which I am addicted to. We are also watching reruns of the Great British Bake Off as Wyatt requests them. Lol. Wyatt is also enjoyed Scout and the Gumboot Kids and Daisy and the Gumboot Kids on Amazon Prime. I have wishing and hoping they would become available to us (they are Canadian) and finally they are!

What is going on with you all?

What Wyatt's Reading – November

It has been a great reading month for Wyatt and I! It was the Beaver Moon this past month, so we read a bunch of books with beaver characters. We also read a lot of fall books, with owls and Thanksgiving, and then threw in a little winter there at the end. Here is a round up of our favorites!

Thanksgiving in the Woods and Owl Moon are two favorites around here. We all love these two books. I would love to one day have a Thanksgiving out in the woods, under the trees like the family does in that picture book. How magical it would be! Owl Moon is one we gave Wyatt for his first Christmas – Billy and I go on an owl walk every year with our local Metropark (sometimes more than one) to call owls to get a glimpse. We went last Saturday and just being in the woods at night is a treat. We can’t wait to take Wyatt – he is just not quiet enough right now. Lol.

Wyatt really loved The Mukluk Ball, Sophie’s Squash, Owl Sees Owl, Look Whooo’s Counting, and The Little Snowplow Wishes for Snow. That one was so cute honestly. And the Little Snowplow has a birthday in early March, just like Wyatt! Bird Count and Winter is Coming were both wonderful, but too much for Wyatt right now – a little long for him. Winter is Coming is beautiful though, I actually enjoyed reading it for myself. Lol. It was lyrical and beautifully illustrated, and I loved the descriptions of fall ending and winter coming. I loved that the author described the sound of a goose as gray and sad and eternal. It just seemed so perfect. That is one I am definitely buying for our home library. We were talking last night about what signs in nature symbolize the end of the year to us, and geese flying south is definitely one of them around here. Is there anything that says winter is coming to you, besides the dropping temperatures and maybe snow or rain?

Nonfiction Nov – Week 5 – New to TBR

I made it to Week 5, the final week! This has been a wonderful month of finding not just new reads but whole new blogs and people! My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to visit everyone and reply all the time. My blogging hours are limited to when my son is in school three mornings a week, which is usually an acceptable amount of time, but this challenge needed a little more than that. I do plan on trying to go back and comment, and finish visiting those I missed though over the next week or so.

Also, because I am a person who takes notes on the backs of envelopes and random bits of paper, I lost one of my lists of reads and also a list with the names of the blogs I got books from. So… if you are reading this and see a book here that I have said I added but didn’t add the blogger and it is you, let me know so I can link back! I feel awful about it. Next year I will be more organized and better prepared. This was my first year, and I learned a lot and really enjoyed myself! Thanks to everyone who hosted and set this challenge up!

Which leads us to this last week, all of our new books added to our TBR, hosted by Rennie at What’s Nonfiction:

Week 5: (Nov. 25 to 30) – New to My TBR – Rennie @ What’s Nonfiction : It’s been a month full of amazing nonfiction books! Which ones have made it onto your TBR? Be sure to link back to the original blogger who posted about that book!

Memoir/Essays

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone : Books Are My Favorite and Best

Pancakes in Paris – Musings of a Literary Wanderer

Kitchen Yarns – Unruly Reader

Apple Island Wife – Secret Library Site

Where the Hornbeam Grows – What Cathy Read Next

Out East – Novel Visits

The Reluctant Hotelkeeper – Superfluous Reading

An Elephant in My Kitchen – Superfluous Reading

Educated – Cozy Reading Nook

The Man Who Climbs Trees – Booksplease

The Stranger in the Woods – Book Lovers Pizza

As You Wish – Sincerely Stacie

The Salt Path – Booker Talk

My Wedding Dress – Ex Urbanis

North of Normal – Kristin Kraves Books

Home Cooking – Cozy Reading Nook

Letters from Iceland – Liz D.

Iceland Defrosted – Liz D.

The Solace of Wide Open Spaces – What’s Nonfiction

Spirituality/Self Help

Welcoming the Unwelcome – Lovely Book Shelf

Tiny Beautiful Things – Book Lovers Pizza

Thriving as an Empath – Lisa Notes

The Road Back to You – Lisa Notes

If at Birth You Don’t Succeed – Based on a True Story

History

Expeditions Unpacked – Julz Reads

The Witches: Salem, 1692

A Bite-Sized History of France – Deb @ Readerbuzz

The Evolution of Useful Things

Poe: A Life Cut Short : Katenread

The Five – Doing Dewey Decimal

Letters of a Woman Homesteader – Hopewells Library of Life

Dead Wake – The Paperback Princess

I also think Bryan’s post for expert week was pretty important – so I just added the whole list. One More Page as well

The Road to Jonestown – Scifantastor

Nature

The Hidden Life of Trees – Deb @ Readerbuzz

The Wild Remedy – Jade @ Reading with Jade

Last Child in the Woods

The Big Year – Deb @ Readerbuzz

North on the Wing – Deb @ Readerbuzz

Weird and Wild Beauty – Deb @ Readerbuzz

H is for Hawk – Deb @ Readerbuzz

Wilderness Essays John Muir – Deb @ Readerbuzz

The Soul of an Octopus – Shelleyrae @ Book’d Out

21st-Century Yokel – Secret Library Site (which I already bought and read!)

Gathering Moss – An Adventure in Reading – (pretty sure this is next on my list)

Under Land – Doing Dewey Decimal

Around the World in 80 Trees – Superfluous Reading

Braving It – Musings of a Literary Wanderer

Forest Bathing – Readerbuzz

Birders – Tale of a Tribe – Liz D.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – What’s Nonfiction

Humor

#IMOMSOHARD – Never Enough Novels

True Crime

The Crimes of Paris – What’s Nonfiction

The Poisoner’s Handbook

The Family Next Door

After the Eclipse – Rather Too Fond of Books

Then Shelleyrae had a crazy good list of women serial killers (does that sound weird? lol)

Decor

Cozy White Cottage – Unruly Reader

Cozy Minimalist Home – Unruly Reader

Travel

The Stopping Places

50 Great American Places

Don’t Make Me Pull Over

Science

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are?Maphead’s Book Blog

Tamed – Kate Vane

Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife – What’s Nonfiction

Bad Science – What’s Nonfiction

Quiet – Booksplease

Gender

The Gender Agenda – Rather Too Fond of Books

Books about Books

The Novel Cure – Books are my favorite and best

Fiction

Split Tooth – Lovely Bookshelf 

Cape May – Novel Visits

Podcasts

Redhanded – What’s Nonfiction

My Sunday-Monday Post!

My Sunday Post is hosted by Kimba the Caffeinated Book Reviewer

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is hosted by Kathryn at Book Date

Sunday Salon is hosted by Deb at Readerbuzz

Whee! We are getting into the holiday season big time now! I find myself in this weird emotional limbo about it – I am so very excited to share the holidays with Wyatt this year, he is really getting into them for the first time this year and it is so cool. We put up our tree on Friday night, and the smiles on this child! So big and full of joy. Which frankly, I need for many reasons, partly because this year the season is a bit harder as I am still grieving for those I have lost. But, despite some sadness, this family has been bitten by the Christmas spirit and we are throwing ourselves into the season, if a teeny bit early. I feel like Santa, making my lists of food and gifts and different things I want to do.

Friday was fun – Billy took a surprise day off and we had my mom babysit while we went shopping and had coffee and cake. It was so nice to be able to have that unexpected time. Later that evening, we put up Christmas! Saturday we bopped around, then went to an owl prowl, something I look forward to every year. Then Sunday we had an early holiday winter lunch with my dad and stepmom and bonus family. It is always so laid back and relaxed and I love it. We had a warming tortellini and bean soup, bread, and other little nibbles, while we sat around and chatted while the kiddos played.

On to the books!

Read Last Week:

I finished 21st-Century Yokel and I loved it. I love his voice, and the stories and adventures he shared about his family and his rambles. I will definitely be reading more by him.

Reading This Week:

I am starting Wild Things which looks well, magical, and finishing up The Owl Papers. I also finally started Alone in the Wild and am hooked already. I just love this series!

Posted:

Nonfiction November – Nonfiction Favorites

Watching:

Shakespeare and Hathaway on Britbox, Criminal Minds on Netflix (so many seasons!), lots of different things on Disney +. Lol. I couldn’t resist the nostalgia! Plus all the Winnie the Pooh for Wyatt! Billy is watching The Mandalorian and loves it. Boba Fett is on my Star Wars favorites list but I haven’t started that show yet.

What about you all? What is going on in your world?