Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Nonfiction November - Week 3

The Week 3 topic is Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert and is hosted by Julie @ JulzReads.
Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
I decided to "be the expert" and share a list of excellent books about food.

  • Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell. I loved this book! It is the true story of how a young woman decided to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year. In a tiny NYC apartment. It is touching, inspiring, and hilarious.
  • Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time by Adrian Miller. This book won the 2014 James Beard Foundation Book Award (Reference and Scholarship). There is a lot of food history, and American history, packed into this very readable book.
  • Bitter Brew: The Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and America's Kings of Beer by William Knoedelseder. This book was a combination of business analysis, brewing history, pop culture retrospective, and gossip column. It worked. The Busch family was, for the most part a train wreck in their personal lives and how that intersected with running one of the worlds largest and most successful companies is a fascinating tale.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Nonfiction November - Week 2

The week 2 topic is Your Year in Fiction / Nonfiction Book Pairing hosted at Sarah's Book Shelves

This week, pair up a nonfiction book with a fiction title. It can be a “If you loved this book, read this!” or just two titles that you think would go well together. Maybe it’s a historical novel and you’d like to get the real history by reading a nonfiction version of the story.

The Extra Woman by Joanna Scutts pairs very nicely with the novel Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney. The first one is about a time and place in American history where women had options that closed to them later on. The second is the story of a woman (based on a real person mentioned in the first book) looking back on her life.  

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Nonfiction November - Week 1

Nonfiction November — hosted this year by Julie (JulzReads), Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves), Katie (Doing Dewey), Rennie (What’s Nonfiction) — is a month-long celebration of everything nonfiction. Each week, there is a different prompt and a different host looking at different ideas about reading and loving nonfiction.
The week 1 topic (I am a bit behind) is Your Year in Nonfiction hosted by Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness.
Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

My non-fiction reading this year (25 books not including poetry) has been a mixed bag in terms of topics: some history, some biography, some social science (think Freakonomics), some craft/decorating books, a bit of literary criticism and one true crime.  I liked most of them but I think my favorite was Reckless Daughter, a biography of Joni Mitchell. I'm looking forward to participating in Nonfiction November as a chance to consider what I have already read and what NF I might want to read next.

6 Degrees of Separation

The #6degrees meme is hosted at Books are my Favourite and Best.

This month the chain begins with Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray. I know that I read this in college, and I think I have a copy somewhere, but I really can't remember much about it. Perhaps it should be considered for a re-read at some point. It did remind me of (1) Vanity Fair's Writers on Writers which I got as a gift from my Mom at Christmas in 2016 and which I read a bunch of essays in, but not all and I need to get back to it. It includes an essay about Salman Rushdie. I have always wanted to read his work, but never managed to until this past year when I read (2) The Golden House. The narrator of Rushdie's novel is a film-maker who is trying to wrangle the sprawling story of the Golden family into a coherent narrative. William Boyd's (3) Sweet Caress is similar in that it is taking a visual medium (photography in that case) and using it as a narrative thread to tie a sprawling story into a coherent whole. Boyd uses various photos, presumably taken by his main character but actually found by the author at thrift stores, to illustrate his tale. Another book that mixes images into fiction as if they are documentary evidence is (4) Night Film by Marisha Pessl. Her first novel, (5) Special Topics in Calamity Physics is a book I picked up because I loved the title. Another book that I was drawn to because the title entertained me was (6) A Red Herring without Mustard by Alan Bradley. It is part of the Flavia de Luce series all of which (so far) have proven to be  delightful.  

Monday, November 5, 2018

Killing CommendatoreKilling Commendatore
by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
"Our lives really do seem strange and mysterious when you look back on them. Filled with unbelievably bizarre coincidences and unpredictable, zigzagging developments. While they are unfolding,its hard to see anything weird about them, no matter how closely you pay attention to your surroundings." --p. 58)
Reading a Haruki Murakami novel makes you think about things in a new way, it teaches you stuff (in this case about Japanese painting, opera, Vienna during WWII, and a bit about Jaguars), and it is weirdly wonderful. This novel is a perfect example of all these things. I also love that the chapter titles are lines from the text of that chapter, but they often seem to mean something else when they stand alone as titles than they do when you find them in context.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

What's in a Name 2018 Wrap-up

This is my 7th time participating in the What's in a Name Challenge which is currently hosted at The Worm Hole. I love this challenge because it stretches my reading more than most challenges do. Since the book selections aren't driven at all by topic, just by a word in the title I tend to read things outside my usual choices.
Here are the books I read for each category this year:

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Zin

Zin: The History And Mystery Of ZinfandelZin: The History And Mystery Of Zinfandel
by David Darlington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is interesting more as an historical oddity than anything else. It was written in 1991 (and was originally published under the title Angels' Visits) and published by Da Capo Press in 2001 when a new afterword was added.
David Darlington travels around California, mostly in the late 1980s, talking to various men who are making Zinfandel in commercial wineries (as opposed to home winemakers). They drink wine, they analyze what they are drinking, and they philosophize (sometimes at a length well beyond sober judgement) about why Zinfandel is the great American varietal. We do hear quite a bit about the home-wine making activities of the author and his friends. The histories of these people (some of whom run wineries that are now huge and successful, like Ravenswood) and how they came to be making wine is interesting. Because of the time it was written none of them know that Zinfandel is going to be successful, it is a fringe thing these few people are playing around with.
I am counting this book toward the What's in a Name Challenge as a title that begins with Z and am linking up with Weekend Cooking. It also counts toward my nonfiction reading challenge and I'm linking up with Nonfiction Friday.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Great Believers

The Great BelieversThe Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Powerful, beautiful, sad book.
I felt like this novel continued the conversation that Andrew Sean Greer began in his National Book Festival interview about how the AIDS crisis took the people that would have been role models for how to be old and out. Makkai talks about writing this book, which is set in Chicago in an interview with New City Lit.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Six Degrees of Separation

The #6degrees meme is hosted at Books are my Favourite and Best.


This month the chain begins with The Outsiders by S E Hinton. I read this book as a kid and I liked it. My absolute favorite writer at the point in my life when I read The Outsiders was Paula Danziger who wrote (#1) Can You Sue Your Parents for Malpractice? Danziger visited my school library when I was in 6th or 7th grade and I was so excited to meet her and have her sign my copy of one of her books. Since then I have gotten to meet lots of authors (one of the benefits of being a librarian) but mostly it isn't as exciting as exciting as it was the first time. A few years ago I met a teenager at an event where Jodi Picoult was speaking and she was super excited to meet Picoult because (#2) My Sister's Keeper was her very favorite book which is about a kid suing her parents. It was a huge thrill for me to meet (very briefly at a huge event) Katherine Paterson because she wrote (#3) Bridge to Terabithia which I loved as a kid even though it was SO SAD.  The ambition to be a great runner is part of that story, which brings me to (#4) What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Running is not a topic I am interested in, but Murakami is fascinating no matter what he talks/writes about and this was a great audiobook. Neil Gaiman is another author who I will listen to an audiobook by no matter what the topic is because I could listen to that man read the phone book and be riveted. My favorite of his books is (#5) Stardust. He is my husband's favorite writer and he likes the short stories better than the novels and especially liked (#6) Smoke and Mirrors.
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