Summer seems to get me back in the reading spirit. I try to read a little in bed each night, on the weekends, and certainly while traveling.I recently visited the Carnegie Library in Oakland for the first time (travesty!) and eagerly scooped up an ambitious looking stack of books. The following list of books were devoured somewhere between the beginning of April and now. I thought I would share my thoughts..
In an attempt better describe the books, I will rate them 1-4 stars, a 4 star book being the most engaging, thought provoking, and enjoyable.
My Life in France – by Julia Child, with Alex Prud’homme
I fell in love with this book. It chronicles the life of Julia Child, concentrating on the formative years she spent in Paris. I really wanted to be in Julia’s apartment and live her life. I plan to see ‘Julie and Julia’ when it comes out!
In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – by Michael Pollan
The motto of this book is ‘Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants’. This book was very informative, but a bit of a tough read. There is a ton of information on the USDA and how government policy has shaped the way we eat. I think I preferred Omnivore’s Dilemma to this book, but that is a personal preference.
Vanilla Beans and Brodo – by Isabella Dusi
I read this book while staying in Tuscany, only minutes from Montalcino, the quaint setting of the book. I loved the idea of dropping everything and moving to Tuscany (as the woman in the book does) and I enjoyed being able to connect with things I actually saw in Montalcino. However, without the connection, the book may fall a bit flat.
Heat – by Bill Buford
This book follows Buford, an NY Times reporter, as he does a stint with Mario Batali and eventually ends up spending significant time in Italy studying to become a butcher. I enjoyed the book, and once again, the idea of dropping everything and pursuing a dream in Italy. I also read this book while in Rome, which likely added to my enjoyment of it. I think this would be a good foodie book for a guy.
The Unprejudiced Palate – by Angelo Pellegrini
This is a book/cookbook written by an Italian immigrant in the 1950s. There are some stories in the book (which were my favorite part) but the bulk of it discusses recipes, step by step, in paragraph form. I could not get into this and the way it was written didn’t exactly inspire me to get in the kitchen. However, I did enjoy the overall tone of this book. I actually read this book hoping to participate in a book club occurring at the Carnegie Library in Oakland. Do any of my readers attend this? I ended up not being able to go the meeting (work) and was disappointed. I would have loved to hear others opinions on this different book.
Making the Cut – by Jillian Michaels
Good ole’ Jillian is back and promising to help you drop the last 10 or so ‘vanity’ pounds you are trying to lose. The book lays out a 30 day plan to make this happen. To be honest, I basically skimmed this book and then tossed it aside. I am not really in need of the book at this time – however, it is very detailed and I would return to it should I ever decide to really dedicate myself to such a plan. The book also contains recipes.
Comfort Me with Apples – Ruth Reichl
Comfort Me with Apples is Ruth’s story of how she got started in the restaurant review business. I found her unconventional lifestyle intriguing and enjoyed living vicariously through her food and life experiences. At times, the piece appears to be written more like fiction, with lots of dialog, etc. However, I appreciate it is just a reflection of Ruth’s life. I enjoyed the book and hope to read the others she has written.
Wicked – by Gregory Maguire
Unless you have been living under a rock, you are likely aware of this book and the accompanying wildly popular Broadway play. The book is based on the story of the Wizard of Oz, told from the viewpoint of the Wicked Witch. While I really appreciated the creativity in the book (who could think up this stuff??), I struggled through it. I stumbled over all the crazy words and people. I still want to see the play though!
Geography of Bliss – by Eric Weiner
NPR reporter Eric Weiner sets out to explore the happiest places on Earth. For good measure, he also visits some not so happy places. I found this book really interesting. It was particularly thought provoking – I had never thought there could be so many different viewpoints on happiness.
The Last Lecture – by Randy Pausch
This is a quick read detailing the musings and life lessons learned by Randy Pausch, the CMU professor who became known for his ‘Last Lecture’ and passed away from pancreatic cancer last year. This is not a particularly sad book – it could better be described as inspiring and warm, yet not overly sappy. I enjoyed reading this and appreciated Mr. Pausch’s spirit for life, even when he was dying. I don’t think you will be disappointed if you choose to read this book.
New Moon – Stephenie Meyer (Part II of IV in the Twilight series)
The only reason I likely did not give New Moon four stars is because it did not contain enough Edward! I struggled through the first part of the book, but it did pick up steam. I fully intend to read the remaining books in the near future. I have been hooked into the Twilight series. These are fairly easy reads that you will want to devour quickly. Perfect for the beach or a long plane ride.
Dune Road – by June Green
I randomly picked this up at the library because it was in the ‘New Books’ section and had a nice cover. Sigh. I try to avoid doing things like that and I was reminded why shortly after starting this book. This is the story of a divorced mom of two in a small Connecticut town being crushed by the economic downturn – a sister she never knew she had turns up and blah blah blah. I was particularly disappointed that all the suspense and different story lines going on throughout the book just kind of fizzled at the end. It was OK for a beach read, but I can’t really recommend this book.
Still Alice – by Lisa Genova
This book, the fictional story of a woman with early onset Alzheimer’s, was read solely because it was lying around the condo I stayed in over the weekend at the beach. I quickly became hooked – it was very well written (from the point of view of the person with Alzheimer’s). It was somewhat akin to staring at a car accident – I could not look away. I would assume this might be a good read for someone dealing with Alzheimer’s in their family. However, there was a bit of a ‘Could this happen to me?’ element of the book – therefore, I would not recommend it to anyone who gets overly anxious about things like that. An interesting read though.