Taking Emily Freeman’s lead to share a handful of things I learned this month, from the (occasionally) significant to the (mostly) shallow.
1. The first thing I learned: I always accumulate a long list of things I learned when I travel. This month, we traveled.
2. The DC cherry blossom scene is for real. This month my whole family headed to Washington, DC for spring break. I’ve always heard DC is lovely in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom.
Well. When we planned the trip (on short notice, in typical fashion) we didn’t realize just how big a deal the Cherry Blossom Festival is, or that we’d timed our visit to coincide with peak bloom—which is gorgeous, and also draws unbelievable crowds to the city. I hate crowds, and that might have scared us off if we’d known. But we didn’t, so we enjoyed the blossoms.
3. There is one thing that can make me wish I had a long commute. I’m usually emphatically grateful not to spend lots of time going back and forth to work every day. But I regularly hear from What Should I Read Next? listeners that their daily commute does great things for their reading life, and when we were in DC zipping around on public transit I experienced that for myself.
I wasn’t sure how much reading I’d get done on our busy family vacation, but I forgot about the time we would be spending on the train. And WOW can I read a lot on the train.
I don’t really wish for a long commute … but I can see why if you’re a reader, you might not hate it. At all.
4. The Library of Congress is the largest library on earth. A few impressive stats: 838 miles of bookshelves, 167 million items, among them 39 million books, 14.8 million photographs, 5.5 million maps, 8.1 million pieces of sheet music and 72 million manuscripts.
Also, it’s gorgeous. This wasn’t high on my list of DC must-sees (can you believe it?) but I’m so thankful my daughter’s history teacher put this on her radar. Totally worth the visit.
5. Bonsai is amazing. Surprise, more from DC. Before we visited the National Arboretum, I thought “bonsai” meant using hedge clippers to trim bushes into animal shapes. Silly me. These are miniature trees that have been trained and pruned to grow in pots, and thankfully the welcome desk volunteer urged us to go see the Arboretum’s amazing bonsai collection. My whole family was mesmerized.
6. Nothing Compares 2 U is a Prince song. Change of pace: a few months ago Prince’s estate manager started hinting that a bunch of previously unreleased Prince music would be coming soon. And it’s coming. His estate just released the original version of this song—a Prince original—that he recorded in 1984. (Sinead O’Connor made it famous in 1990.)
Prince’s sound engineer was there when he wrote it, and she recently speculated as to why Prince didn’t release the song himself back then, saying its origins weren’t really about a breakup but about his housekeeper leaving his employ to take care of her sick father—and that connection was too personal to put on his own album.
7. Marked-up books are trending. I recently read Gary Keller’s book The One Thing, and noticed something unusual: it had already been thoroughly underlined. I got my copy from the library, and at first I thought a patron had marked it up, but then I noticed that no, the book had been printed that way: when it rolled off the press, it was already highlighted and underlined. (See photo above—that’s not my pencil mark!)
Since then, I’ve noticed this more and more in the new books I’m reading. Marketing books are filled with yellow highlighter. A new advance review copy came in with a thoroughly underlined and highlighted back cover.
Have you noticed this? I’m not sure what to think!
8. Intriguing historical fiction hits shelves this fall. October 2: Patti Callahan Henry’s Becoming Mrs. Lewis, about C.S. Lewis’s wife Joy Davidman. October 9: Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter, a tale of art, love, and murder set in contemporary London and 1860s Oxfordshire. October 23: Sarah McCoy’s Marilla of Green Gables imagines Marilla’s childhood and life at Green Gables before Anne. I can’t wait.
What did you learn in April?