Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer Reading

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember.  I was one of those weird kids who LOVED a summer reading assignment!  In fact, having been left with Ruthie at the local library each Thursday during the summer while my mother did her weekly shopping, the librarian quickly quit asking about whether this volume or that was really "appropriate" for me and bent all the rules as to how many books were allowed for weekly checkout, as I traveled through Alcott and Buck, Hemingway, Kipling, Michener, and Plath, Steinbeck and Stowe,  on to White, Woolfe, Wright, and Yeats!!!  I traveled to many places indeed!!!  Some of this summer's "travels" below.....

Daniel Deronda  By:  George Elliot
    While not particularly liking any single character, they have remained with me...true and real...each seeking answers.  The Jewish, pro-Zionist ideas were certainly out of character for a Victorian novel of its time.  That aspect, combined with its forward about the life of the author made me want to learn more about the woman behind George Elliot.

The Girl in the Blue Beret  By:  Bobbie Ann Mason
    Readable, easy book.  Inspired by the real life experiences of her father-in-law, an American fighter pilot, shot down in occupied Europe during WWII.  Rosie got to hear the author speak at UT and came away with this book.  The inscription was a true gift, Roo!  Thank you.

A Voyage Long and Strange  By:  Tony Horwitz
    Recommended to me by Rosie, one of the best books I have read in a while!  Horwitz uses his journalistic skills, as well as his incredible gift as a story teller, to weave an entertaining and informative tale of his epic trek to learn who REALLY 'discovered' America.  From Vikings, to Conquistadors, French voyageurs, and yes...the English, he notes how and where they began as well as where they landed (then and now) and what they found when they got there.

A Land More Kind than Home  By:  Wiley Cash
    The first book by this fairly young author, rings true and keeps you reading.  Anyone raised with those who believed (or perhaps more importantly, tried to make OTHERS believe) they could handle snakes and simultaneously experience God's protection will recognize these characters...from home.

Let's Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir) By:  Jenny Lawson
    For me, though certain sections were very funny (especially when recounting her time working in HR), this tale didn't quite live up to its hype.  When you lived the childhood I had, it takes more than a few dead animals in Texas to impress.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time  By:  Mark Haddon
    Very well done.  The story is told incredibly consistently and believably by Christopher, a 15 year old boy, who describes himself as a "mathematician with some behavior difficulties."  It catalogs his progression in his own life through a series of events that unfold when he discovers a neighbor's dog, dead, stabbed through with a garden pitch fork, one night.  For me, it was really a treatise on what "behavioral difficulties" are and aren't.  And perhaps even more, a thought provoking work on "truth". 

From Anthropometry to Genetics, Reflections of a Pacific Island Fieldworker  By:  Jonathan Friedlaender, as told to Joanna Radin
     Stories of his very own research in the Pacific Islands, with native peoples, my dear friend Jonathan, tells of his time in the field and how he developed the research at home.  Apart from the real contribution to our knowledge base of how people came to populate this portion of the world (much like the questions addressed in Diamond's, Guns, Germs, and Steel), it brings up many thoughts about how "powerful nations" are viewed by those with less power and how that appearance affects us as a group and as individuals when we travel.  It also makes you think about who really does "own" research, both the data collected as well as the samples themselves.  Well done, Buddy.  To a life well lived!  Would still like to know more about how you came to rock those sarongs!!!

The Complete Short Stories of Somerset Maugham, Number 1, East and West
    The man could tell a story!!!  Partly inspired to re-read because of Jonathan's tales of the Pacific Islands....partly because they are consummately readable stories that I read and re-read periodically...I traveled (mentally!) to all the rainy, over heated, Pacific Islands, feeling as though I was really there with all of Maugham's flawed humanity beside me, just as I always do.  My sweet Granny gave me this two volume set when I was in my early teens.  I've often wondered;  had she known the vibrant, but sordid tales contained within, would she have given it to me?  What I do know, is that she thought they were 'important' volumes with a grand vocabulary....and she believed that I could understand them.  Thanks, Granny.

Seven Pillars of Wisdom (A Triumph)  By:  T.E. Lawrence
    Oh, my.  Thank God and Greyhound she's gone!!!  While parts of Lawrence's own tale were vivid and inspiring with incredible descriptions of the desert and the tribes who inhabited it, the machismo, self flagellating, slightly weird descriptions of male love, and endless war can make a girl tired!  I found the story of Gertrude Bell, Queen of the Desert, much better written and readable.

The Flavor Bible  By:  Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
    While it may sound strange to some, I love to READ cookbooks. I love the delicious recipes, but perhaps even more, the way they allow me to experience other places and cultures.  Last count, I had 111...though I'm sure Bentie has indulged my penchant for books and cooking more than once since then.  In fact, he gave me this volume for my birthday.  Sorry, Bentie....but a terrible disappointment!!!   It is large and slick with scattered beautiful photos.  But, mostly it is simply an alphabetical list of foods followed by list of foods that are thought to go with them.  There are random anecdotes from chefs who were apparently consulted.  But....  Well, I guess if you have "X" in your larder and no idea what to cook with it.....I suppose you could just look it up.  Though, why would you have "X" if you didn't know what to do with it?  (Unless you were married to Bent!) And, once you do look it up, you will have only found the name of another ingredient....not what to do next!

The Flavor Thesaurus  By:  Niki Segnit
    Now this is more like it!  B gave me this one for our anniversary....inscribed:  "I think we are the best pairing!"  Such a sweetie!!!  Anyhow, very readable and very helpful!!!!  Written by a fairly well traveled Brit, who is well versed in cooks and their books.  Each topic ingredient is followed with a list of foods that would pair well with it...but each pairing includes a paragraph about where the origins of the combo arises with mini recipes and hints about how to actually deal with the ingredients!  She even has the decency to admit that some pairings, while popular with others, are not to her taste.  Of beets in chocolate cake she reports:  "....the cocoa almost entirely overwhelms the beet flavor leaving nothing but a hint of its earthiness, which makes the cake taste like a cheap chocolate cake that's been dropped in a flowerbed.  And the raw cake mixture was so unpleasant that no one wanted to scrape the bowl clean.  Case closed, at least in my kitchen."

The Taste of the Fire, The Story of the Tudor Kitchens at Hampton Court Palace
   Now THAT was cooking!!!  Constructed in 1530 and used by the royal family until 1737, Henry VIII's kitchens covered 36,000 square feet for food production and storage, requiring more than 50 rooms, and fed over 600 people twice daily!  A book from the royal palace that Rosie brought back from her visit, it is amazing to think of the work, organization, and quantities such an undertaking required with no modern methods. Manners were king.  Scraps went to the poor. Saffron, mace, and cinnamon were used in abundance.  And only one woman worked in the kitchen, where she made the king's "puddings".

Fodor's Spain, 2013

Rick Steves' SPAIN 2013 

As Fred would say, "Yeppers!  Read those too!!!"  More on those later!  Happy all sorts of places!!!! - c 


  1. I am in awe of the influence I had on your reading this year! You must let me borrow the ones I have not read yet, when I find the time. I love my Professor Celeste who shows me books!

  2. You have always been MY teacher, mi chica!!! Te amo!