Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Summer Reading

Typically, any time of year, you will find me with a novel in my hands. This summer, though, it seems that I have taken on all the non-fiction from the past year and piled it onto my plate at once. Here's what I've picked up so far this summer:

Nourishing Traditions

This book has been on my "to read" list for about a year because it has convinced many of my friends in Oregon that a new revolution needs to be staged in our kitchens. Technically, this is a cookbook, but I read the first 70 pages where the author explains her philosophy of eating. Essentially, her theory is as follows: Indigenous people instinctively knew how to eat well, and thus they suffered from no diseases. If we were to return to pre-industrial ways of cooking, we too would be healthy. I'm sure she's right on some counts, but I just can't get away from the fact that we live in a fast-paced, industrialized society. Also, given my husband's aversion to, oh, let's see... vegetables, fish and seafood, pickled things, organ meats, eggs, and legumes, we would be left eating sourdough bread. Not a bad thing... just not what I want to eat everyday!

(A funny side story: While I was in Oregon, I went out to breakfast with my sister-in-law, and we started talking about this book. She hadn't read it, so I tried to sum it up for her. Meanwhile, this stranger unlocking his bike nearby, finishes unlocking his bike and walks it towards the street. As he passes us, he turns and says "Nourishing Traditions?" and I nod and think... only in this town would any given person be familiar with this book!)

Status: Finished.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

This book has been on my "to read" list for about half a year, after one of my good friends read it and began raving about it. I am interested mostly because of lectures my grandma has given me about supporting local farmers. (She and my grandpa have been farmers all their lives.) The book examines four sources of food: the industrial conventional farm, the industrial organic farm, the wholistic farm, and the hunter/gatherer. While I'm not quite finished with the book, I'm guessing he's going to be advocating for the wholistic farm to the greatest extent you are able.

Status: Just a couple chapters left & gotta finish it tonight because it's due tomorrow!

Paul Revere's Ride

This book was recommended to me by a National Park Service Ranger when I went to the Shot Heard Round the World reenactment in Concord, Massachusetts this spring. I constantly am thinking that I need to read more history, but I never know where to start. So, when this ranger recommended this particular book, I decided I might as well jump in here. And you know what? It is fascinating! The author gives vivid descriptions of the scene - both overarching explanations and specific details such as the style of the army issued shoes - such that the revolution cannot help but come to life.

Status: Over halfway through.

James Beard's Simple Foods

(hmmm... I'm sensing a theme here!)
This book is one I picked up on a whim because I like to cook. It is a collection of essays written by James Beard on how to cook. These tend to be, as the title would give one to expect, fairly elementary; and yet, I've found some of them, such as the one explaining the difference between simmering and boiling, poaching and blanching to be more enlighening than any cookbook I've ever read. Plus, their short size of three to five pages makes them perfect for squeezing into those five minutes in the kitchen when the steak is frying. (Or is it browning? Or searing?)

Status: Almost halfway through.

Nonetheless, despite all my best laid plans of working my way through all this non-fiction, I laid my own trap when I picked up a novel to take on our trip to New York last weekend. My reasoning was well justified - every ounce counts when you're carrying around a backpack, and I didn't want to carry one of those big hardbacks around! Thus, I picked up a book I had setting on my shelf, and I confess, I haven't put it down since. It's one of those great gripping novels that I always fear I've read the last of.

The Moonstone

Considered by some to be the first English detective novel, this is the story of a diamond gone missing, told by those who were around when it disappeared.

Status: Tearing through it to find out what happens!

I'd love to know what you're reading this summer! Anything you'd recommend?


sufferingsummer said...

your list is so diverse and interesting...I too always feel I need more history but have seriously NO idea where to start. Maybe I'll pick that one up.
I just finished The shoot the author is slipping my mind...
it was ok. It's broken into 3 books and the first 2 were so so but the last brought redemption for me in finishing it so my final say would be a thumbs up, mostly.
I'm currently reading Santa Evita by Tomas Eloy Martinez. I love Gabriel Garcia Marquez and he recommended this book so I thought, why not? I'm about 4 chapters from the end and it has taken me the entire summer to get that far...verdict: not that interesting and not that well written and the story of the corpse of Evita I think has been done before and probably better.
I'm also reading Rosie by Anne Lamott...
I love her. I'm not far in but already love the style and will probably love the story. I started yesterday and I'll probably finish it by Friday.
Other than that I'm reading a photography book on using available light sources to your best advantage and a biography of Stiegliz and O'keeffe and slowly I'm making my way through The Collected Poems of Czeslaw Milosz.
I'm always reading Nourishing Traditions...for some reason no matter how many times I read through a section I'm still left a tad confused. I'm a very slow processor when it comes to books like that!
The Moonstone sounds like one I ought to pick up...and I have also been wanting to read The Omnivore's Dilemma for quite some time. Your review makes me want to get right on that!

Janelle Rispler said...

I've been reading two of your books...Nourishing Traditions and The Omnivore's Dilemna. My mom is totally in to NT. She and my dad are making kombucha and have "perfected" it. It is really good! I relate to your take on the book and probably won't make it my bible, but will use it as a resource. I checked OD out from the library and couldn't renew because of a hold, so I'll have to try again here soon. What I did read was really interesting. I also started Julia Child's autobiography about her life in Paris, which I left at my parents' house... and then couldn't renew again. So I'll have to check it out again... : ) I love food books!

BTW: Thanks for your lovely baby gifts.. I have an announcement coming to you soon. Wish we could have met up while you were in Oregon. : (

Axon Parker said...

What a great post! I just finished The Omnivore's Dilemma (Sar is spreading the gospel) and passed it on to Dad for his take on it...we're having fun discussing it. I, unlike you, specifically surrendered my summer to theory, cool novels like The Chosen, but in reality, bits of mysteries (Connelly, Leonard) nibbled in between too much time spent on the internet. I did finish The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which I loved, and also guiltily adored Homicide, by the creator of The Wire. I'm also planning in rereading West With the Night on my dad's orders...a stunningly beautiful memoir about Africa. I'm definitely going to be looking for the James Beard and Collins books you wrote about. I love your sentence about novels "you fear you've read the last of". Exactly!

Melanie said...

Wow - I love everyone's comments! So fun to hear what you guys are interested in these days.

Summer - Is Rosie a novel? I've skimmed Traveling Mercies before, but other than that, never read anything by Anne Lamott. I'd jump at a novel, though!

Janelle - Your mom told me all about her kombucha when we were there. I'd love to sit down and talk about it more with her; she is a wise woman!

Axon - Where do you come up with all these books? Every time I talk to you, it's like WHOMP - here are 20 more authors you should check out. I can never remember them all, let alone read them all! Hmmm... I'm definitely going to check out West With the Night, though - looks fabulous!

Also, I'm dying to hear what your dad thinks of The Omnivore's Dilemma. I made a whole list of questions to ask my uncle (who carries on the farming), but didn't get around to it while we were home.

sufferingsummer said...

Mel- I felt the same way when I read Axon's comments...who? what?...I need to read that!
anyway. Yes it is a novel. And on my list of Anne Lamott after Rosie is Hard Laughter...also a novel. I was thrown a curve ball on my reading today with two tag team nappers so it might take me until Saturday night to finish now but it is a quick read.

Sarah said...

I will weight in with my own blog post about this since I'm struggling for topics lately.

Sarah said...


yellowinter said...

just finished reading "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society." Like the name, it's "quirky and charming," as some reviewer put it. if you'd like, you can borrow mine. been on a bit of a buying binge, which i had been so good about for few years. time to get reacquainted with the library again. :)

Steph said...

Oh, thank you for the list! I am currently reading A Homemade Life and am enjoying it a bunch!