Archive for December, 2011


I made it

I crawled over the finish line. early this morning I finished book # 52. That’s right. I actually reached the goal I set for myself at the start of 2011. A book a week.

I was frantically reading as I finished up the semester, graded exams and final papers, finished committee work, visited my parents and cooked for a small army (my family.) thus I had no time to post. So here are the books.

# 45 Warnings: The True Story of How Science Tamed the Weather by Mike Smith

# 46 The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory

# 47 The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillipa Gregory

# 48 Spying in High Heels  by Gemma Halliday

# 49 Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase

# 50 Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Freidman

# 51 The Buccaneers by Edith Wharton

# 52 The Hunger Games  by Suzanne Collins

Its quite a mix of non-fiction with trashy (really trashy) mysteries, romance novels and historical fiction. Plus a great classic along with a popular YA book. Yeah. This proves that I real read just about anything (I have never been a book snob) and that I love certain books (I re-read Wharton’s novel every Christmas. It is a favorite– a masterpiece of characterization.)

I read a book a week, although admittedly there were weeks when I did not read at all and weeks when I read four books in a row. But I did read a heck of a lot this year.

This whole undertaking did change me. I now read like I used to when I was younger and I have rediscovered the joys of the public library.

Other things have developed over the year and I will reflect on that more in my next post, along with what will happen to the blog now that the project is over (no, its not going away- it will just change a bit.)

But hey- I managed to keep my New Year’s resolution of 2011 all the way to the bitter end. Or at least until 2 am of Dec 31, 2011  (That’s when I finished book 52.)

Happy New Year’s everyone. Its been a fun ride.

Ciao for now,

Bookish C

Food

Apparently I read a lot of books about food. Seems to be a theme around here. Probably unsurprising with my recent celiac diagnosis, but my last two books that I need to catch up in terms of blogging focus on food.

The first is A History of the World in 6 Glasses by Tom Standage

This is the sort of book that ground-up armchair  historians love. In this book Standage surveys the histories of beer, wine, coffee spirits, tea and Coca-Cola in order to explain momentous moments in human history. Ever thought about how rum aided the colonization of the Americas? Or how tea helped to spur the Industrial Revolution? Or coffee, European cafe society? Well, it is all here in a wonderful little book. Standage is funny, informative, and does a wonderful job addressing major moments in history through the lens of what we drink. This is a great little book, an easy read (a great airplane read without you feeling like you are reading junk) and super fun.

The other book I read on food is far more serious– it is Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food

Some years ago I was on a teaching fellowship at a prestigious Midwestern college that was well-known for its sort of hippie/liberal character. That fall, Michael Pollan came to speak (he was greeted like a rock star by an auditorium of screaming college kids and local specialty farmers), and I was one of the lucky faculty that got to go to a dinner with him (I was too terrified to speak to him, and he spent the evening surrounded by luminaries far more important than I.) Anyway, I have read is other books and I will admit I am a fan. This book is small, but it packs a powerful punch.

A few days ago I was at the supermarket with my cart full of vegetables and meat, when an older gentleman in line behind me stepped up and said “You must actually cook!” Startled I looked down at my food and laughed and said “Why yes, don’t most people?” And with  a slight twinkle in his eye he gestured over to the people around us with their carts full of prepackaged foods and soda and said “they don’t really cook.”  And I looked back at him and together we chuckled. (he had a cart full of veggies and meats too.) But it was a prescient observation.

I don’t think I am superior to those who eat junk food and fast food– I don’t eat packaged food because I just plain can’t. Before my diagnosis, I ate plenty of junk, believe me– but now I can’t. I can’t eat processed food because gluten is in just about everything. Anyway, Pollan’s book focuses on how everyone should step away from the foods with the long labels full of stuff that you have no idea what it is– away from the “no-fat” labels– away from the stuff that screams “Its heart healthy!!” because it probably isn’t.

The book explains how the USDA came to endorse its current recommendations for eating, how food science has underminded food itself, how Americans being fat and unhealthy has a whole lot more to it than the number of calories and fats that we eat. It has to do with our culture– the way we see food (Supposed to be fast, cheap and filling)  and approach the culture of eating. The book is about how we should value our food more– and eat only real food.

This book (if you haven’t read it already) will radically change how you think of food. Not hard for me– I was already forced to radically change how I think about food, but if you haven’t read this book, please do. Its a game-changer.

That’s all for now. Will I make it to 52 books by the end of the year? I have eight more to go… Jeepers…

Ciao for now,

Bookish C

Catch-up

Oh Boy.

I have been reading but not blogging. Am seriously, majorly behind on the blogging and realized that as my one-year book experiment is coming to an end that I need to catch-up NOW.

So unlike many of my previous posts, this one is going to really just be some quick thoughts on all the books that I have read recently.

The first two are Young Adult books, the start of a series written by Michelle Cooper. The first book in the series is called A Brief History of Montmaray and The FitzOsbornes in Exile. The books create a sort of alternate history within history– they focus on the children of the royal family of Montmaray (fictional)– an island between England and France, in the run-up to WWII (non-fiction). In doing this, they place the children smack in the middle of real historical events.  Told by the younger sister Sophie, the books capture both the importance of the historical events unfolding around her and her siblings, as well as the fantasy world of the made-up Montmaray island. The books are romantic (in the true meaning of the word) gothic, clever, and at times very funny and outlandish. The FitzOsbornes are quite the family, complete with a mad uncle (the King) and illegitimate offspring (the best friend of the Crown Prince.) While the books are in some way, a fantasy, they are in other ways, highly relevant– they show how WWII was a watershed moment for many of the smaller European royal houses, which did not survive the war. Loved both these books, savored reading them, and recommend them highly, for both adults and teens.

Next– I read two memoirs by people who grew up in religious sects.

The first is by Mary-Ann Kirkby, entitled I am Hutterite

Mary-Ann grew up on a Hutterite colony on the prairies of Canada. Hutterites are often confused with groups like the Amish, and while they are an Anabaptist group (like the Amish) they are very different. Hutterites hold everything in common– they are a sort of Utopian Anabaptist group. And I mean everything– everyone works on the common farm, eats in the common kitchen, etc, etc. While they dress “plainly”- it is distinct from Amish and Mennonite styles, the style of worship is different and they use modern conveniences like farm equipment, trucks and electricity. Anyway, Mary-Ann’s book is a beautiful memoir– she goes into great depth to help you understand her family’s history as Hutterites, the Hutterite lifestyle, her Hutterite childhood, and how eventually struggles over power (and to some extent, family) forced her parents to leave the colony– never having lived on their own in the real-world (like never having owned anything of their own, not even knowing the specifics of what a bank account is, etc.) The book is beautifully written, beautifully realized, and insightful.

The other book is Growing Up Amish by Ira Wagler- also a memoir of life in a distinct religious group.

On the whole, I like the book but perhaps its title should be “Leaving the Amish” because it really focuses on Wagler’s tortured young adult days and the multiple times he left and then ended up coming back to the Amish. Although Wagler’s character is well-realized, I feel like his family isn’t (unlike in Mary-Ann’s book, where you get a tremendous sense of family and community. In Wagler’s book, you don’t, which is strange given the sort of community he grew up in). I had no sense of his father other than he was a strict man who was trying to hold his family together, and no sense of his mother other than the fact that she was clearly a long-suffering woman. I wish he had spent more time delving into his parents’ characters– to make them more multidimensional. I will give the author credit for being brutally honest– even when it did not paint him or his choices in a very good light.

I have two more books to catch up on, but that will be another post….. see what happens when I get behind?

Ciao for now,

Bookish C