Books and other things I’ve read recently
Motorcycle Samurai, by Chris Sheridan — I found this in a LFL on my way home from work. I knew as soon as I saw it the next three people to pass this on to. I’m not sure I need to find volume 2, but volume 1 was a good read.
Blink, by Malcom Gladwell — again, I know the next three people to pass this on to. It was hard to not start talking about all sorts of things from the book with my partner – gotta wait till he’s read it! It was a good reminder of Paul Ekman, and also the show “Lie To Me” (might have to look for it on Netflix or something). Reading through the book, I was alternately dazzled and horrified by some of the things our brains have us believe. The upside is that plenty of other people do the same things – I’ve got a lot of company!
Underwear, by Mary Elise Monsell — I’ve been going through my picture book collections, hard copies and electronic books, culling the ones I’m not reading for myself or using for work anymore. It’s meant I’ve also re-found some old friends I haven’t read in a while. I’m rather fond of well-written, well-illustrated picture books about children’s favorite topics, of which Underwear is definitely one. I’m also a big fan of Lynn Munsinger’s work.
Bookee and Keeboo Search for a Chicken, by Alfons Freire — I’m not quite as fond of this one. I’m not sure why. The pictures are kinda cute. The story is written at an appropriate level for its audience. The story itself is fine. I guess that’s it – the whole thing is… fine. Your mileage may vary.
Hank’s Summer Day, by Jake Croft — This is another one that’s decently done, but for me was Just Fine. It’s written and illustrated well-enough, it just doesn’t move me.
I read a lot of magazines. They’re kind of perfect for reading with meals. I usually have my breakfast alone, and it’s nice to have something to look at. I can’t read books at meals – the book doesn’t stay open, it takes too much concentration to manage the pages and breakfast and keeping track of the story. Magazines don’t take nearly as much effort for me while I’m eating.
I subscribe to a small handful of magazines, and get the rest at thrift stores and from friends. Sometimes I’ll trade out magazines in a waiting room (I usually check with the front desk first). Most of the stuff I like to read, it’s not time-sensitive like news is, so it doesn’t matter if I find copies that are a year or three old. I’ve tried putting them out in the Little Free Library with mixed results – sometimes they’ll sit inside for weeks before I finally toss them. Other times, they disappear in a day or two. Once in a while, the magazines disappeared – along with everything else in the LFL!
I do prefer hard-copy magazines. Sometimes I’ll tear out pages to save (I don’t usually put them in the LFL or waiting rooms in that case). Hard-copy magazines are easier on my eyes. I get frustrated easily with trying to maneuver within online magazines. And, as with books, I like the feel of the pages in my hands.
My favorites related to food/cooking, making stuff (especially crochet and a few other crafts), gardening/homesteading, science, literary arts, world news, and local reporting. I’ll occasionally read lifestyle magazines too, if they’re available for really cheap or free – I do sometimes like reading O and Martha Stewart Living and GQ.
What kind of magazines do you like to read?
Seventeenth Century Prose and Poetry, selected and edited by Witherspoon and Warnke – I think this is the only college textbook I still own. Turns out, I’m rather fond of some of the metaphysical and cavalier poets of 17th century England. One of my absolute favorite poets is Robert Herrick (up there with Edward Lear, Ogden Nash, Shel Silverstein & Emily Dickinson). In addition to these lovely poems, you might also check out this rather smutty one.
How to Be a Better Foodie: A Bulging Little Book for the Truly Epicurious, by Sudi Pigott – It’s kind of fun in a surface-of-the-topic way. Lots of little info and details about different foods, cuisines, food traditions and more. Not terribly helpful on the How To part unless you’re absolutely brand-new to the idea of being a Foodie.
Sweet Shoes for Wee Ones, by Kristi Simpson for Annie’s Crochet – not all reading is about books! I mostly crochet squares for washcloths and blankets, and the occasional circle/tube for hats. I haven’t done a lot with shaping (aside from a couple of stuffed elephants and a misguided series of little vegetable-shaped bags). I recently got the urge to make some baby shower presents. So far, I’ve made two pair of one pattern – not terribly difficult, and the booties are so cute!
Bear in Underwear, by Todd H. Doodle – I found this book in the LFL a while back. So much fun! Terribly goofy! I took it to work and left it on my desk for a couple of weeks. Some of my co-workers got a big kick out of it. (some not quite as much…) It’s a bit on the long side, but I may have to put together a unit on this for my kids at work.
Books I’ve recently read ~
Eat What You Watch: A Cookbook for Movie Lovers, by Andrew Rea – from the Binging With Babish
Movie Night Menus, by Tenaya Darlington and Andre Darlington
Sometimes when we watch a movie at home or with friends, we’ll try to pair food with it somehow. We watched a good share of the series Babylon 5 with friends, and did a fair job either sharing a dish from the movie or at least tying our food to the episode through some sort of pun. I’ve recently started a Short Story and Movie Night social group – everyone reads the short story ahead of time, then we all watch the movie based on that story together. We talk about what we liked and didn’t like of each, we compare and contrast the story and movie, and we’re generally just having a good time hanging out.
Just My Type, by Simon Garfield – I love books about stuff, written for the Everyperson. I have a mild interest in design and typography, so this seemed like a great book for me. Turns out, I could have used about 100 fewer pages. Each chapter is basically about one font and its history, and how it’s related to a few others, how it developed over time, a bit about the person/people who developed it, other things going on during that period that may have contributed, and so forth. After about 8 chapters, though, it just got to be too much for me. As much as I liked it, I just couldn’t finish it.
Side note: Every time I saw the cover on my nightstand or even thought about the book, I could hear this song in my head:
Some books I’ve recently read: The Kitchen Edition!
Comfort in an Instant, by Melissa Clark. “75 comfort food recipes for your pressure cooker, multicooker, + instant pot” There is some great advice on getting the most out of your pressure cooker/Instant Pot, especially for those of us who didn’t grow up with a pressure cooker in the house. If you’re determined to use your Instant Pot for as many things as possible, or you have a hard time coming up with ideas on your own for dinner, or you absolutely need recipes for cooking, this might be the book for you. If you’ve got any real fundamental idea about how most foods should be cooked in order to get the right flavors and textures from them, I’m not sure you’d want this book. I have yet to have anyone convince me that spaghetti and meatballs should be made in a Crockpot or an Instant Pot. The tomato sauce, perhaps. But the meatballs? The noodles? Seriously? Also, there’s nearly no reason to make oatmeal in a slow cooker, other than to free up a burner on your stove. Oh sure, it can cook overnight, hands-off. I’ve tried it. My Crockpot has hot spots – just like yours, I guarantee it. And unless you like watery oatmeal, it cooks up thick enough you’ll find out where your Crockpot’s hot spots are too. Just because you *can* make a dish in a Crockpot or Instant Pot doesn’t mean you *should*.
The One-Bottle Cocktail, by Maggie Hoffman. This one was a lot more interesting. Tons of cocktail recipes involving only one main alcohol – no Long Island Iced Teas in here. On the other hand, Hoffman shares recipes with some really interesting ingredient lists – fruits and herbs and bitters you may not have had before or even seen anywhere else. “One-Bottle” cocktails are not necessarily simple or boring – most of the drinks in this book have complex if not elaborate flavors. The photography is stunning too – the book is worth reading for the drink photos alone.
A couple of months ago, I posted a Recent Reads about “Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking”, by Bonnie Frumkin Morales with Deena Prichep. At the time, I’d only heard of the restaurant. I’ve now been! My sweetie won two tickets for a fancy tasting menu at Kachka, seven courses each paired with an alcoholic beverage. It was pretty amazing. While not a formal restaurant we decided to dress up a little bit anyway. I bought a copy of the book shortly before we went and took it with us.
First course – housemade pickles, including the green tomato pickles in the cookbook. The ones that the whole family makes, once a year. Served with a horseradish vodka. The best part of the whole dinner? The little story that went with each dish and with each drink – where it’s from, what inspired it, why it’s important enough to Chef Bonnie and her husband Israel to have included it in their menu.
We got to meet both Bonnie and Israel. AND! They both signed my cookbook! I suspect, based on their surprise at my request, that no one outside their friends-&-family circle has asked them to do this before. Some people get novels and non-fiction signed by authors. I get my cookbooks signed when I can!
Books I’ve recently read
Midwinter Blood, by Mons Kallentoft – this one was a slog for me. I love murder mysteries and detective novels. This was definitely not one of my favorites. I’ll try another Swedish novel or two, by a different author, before I give up on Nordic Noir. I do have Wallender on my list of Stuff To Read Someday. This book was just unsatisfying for me.
Harriet Gets Carried Away, by Jesse Sima – We found this in the gift shop at the end of our trip to see Zoolights. I’m totally loving it! I also discovered this is the same author who did Not Quite Narwhal, a household favorite!
Year of the Jungle, by Suzanne Collins – This is a recently published book about the author’s life in 1968, when she was a little girl and her father was deployed to Vietnam. It’s very much a young children’s book, and is beautifully done. And for a family in a similar situation, it would be easy enough to substitute the name of the appropriate country, substitute a few other key words and some photos. For some other resources for supporting children and their family’s participation in it, you might check out the Sesame Street/USO project for Military Families, Operation We Are Here, and Everyone Serves.
Would You Rather Be a Princess or a Dragon?, by Barney Saltzberg – This is a rather silly question. Who wouldn’t want to be both? While this book could have been a little more solid on this point, it does get there eventually. Very cute illustrations, good back and forth on how Princesses *can* be different from Dragons (though I’ve seen far more overlap!). Fortunately, this decision doesn’t stop when you grow up – I’m currently living my best Princess/Dragon life!
Books I’ve recently read
Make Me, by Lee Child – I’m a big fan of action books, especially spy/thrillers and police procedurals, and I’m really liking Child’s writing. I’ve read a lot of those, and I’ll freely admit I had not guessed the twist. Looking forward to more of his work.
Red Dragon, by Thomas Harris – I’ve had this book on my shelf for 20 years, and I finally got around to reading it. In fact, I ended up staying up late reading it without realizing it. I don’t know if I’ll be able to watch the movie – I’m an anti-fan of gross-outs and slashers, so it’ll depend a lot on how the moviemakers decided to handle it. Seriously considering reading the third novel in the set, Manhunter.
A Moveable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway – How is it possible, that as an English major, I never read any Hemingway? Maybe one short story. Possibly. But nothing else? I found this one at the Little Library in one of the grocery stores I frequent and thought what the heck. Apparently I’d misunderstood all the descriptions of his writing I’d seen, too. While he uses fairly spare vocabulary, his sentences and messages are anything but. I find I can only read a short bit before having to stop and take a break from his writing style, but that’s okay. I usually have a couple of books going at once anyway. It’s especially interesting to read right now, having been to Paris this summer. He writes of the Jardin du Luxembourg, and we walked all through it; he strolls along the Boulevard St. Michel, and we walked up and down it, watching the boats on the Seine. In addition to being an interesting recount of his time there – spent with authors I’m familiar with too – t’s an especially nice reminder of that trip.
Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale – I can’t remember where I got this one. Maybe from a friend who went to a Comic Con, maybe from Michael’s Firefly Loot Crate. It took me a bit to adapt to the narrative style, and I don’t know that it actually answered any of the questions I’d had about this character from Firefly, but it was a good read and did provide some interesting info on his backstory. Plus it was a good reminder to find some more graphic novels.
Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren – autobiography/memoir of Dr. Hope Jahren, geochemist & geobiologist that’s as much memoir as it is some of the best scientific writing for the layperson I’ve seen in a while. Wikipedia says this better than I can:
Jahren is an advocate for raising public awareness of science and has been working to lift the stereotype surrounding women and girls in science. One such example included the repurposing of the Twitter hashtag#ManicureMondays. Seventeen magazine originally came up with the hashtag, but focused mainly on manicured and painted fingernails. Subsequently, Jahren encouraged fellow scientists, specifically girls, to tweet pictures of their hands conducting scientific experiments. The idea behind this was to raise awareness of scientific research and to increase the profile of women working in science.
Jahren has also written compellingly about the sexual harassment of women in science. She recommends that people draw strong professional boundaries, and that they carefully document what occurs, beginning with the first occasion of harassment.
Anyone who’s been read the “About” link on this site or my Recent Reads posts will know I’m a fan of biographies. This book did not disappoint. She writes about the best parts, the worst parts, and all the realities along the spectrum, of being a woman in the self-perpetuating male-dominated world of science, as well as how this country supports (not) and values (not) science, especially when there’s no sellable or weaponizable product to show for the work put in.
What are you reading these days? What do you think of it?
Books I’ve read recently. All non-fiction this time.
Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking, by Bonnie Frumkin Morales with Deena Prichep
I haven’t been to this restaurant yet, but I’ve heard a lot about it. I stumbled across this book on a “featured books” shelf at the library, and decided to check it out. Russian cuisine is one of my least-researched modern cuisines, and one of the more interesting to me, especially how it overlaps with European and Asian cuisines, along with being steadfastly its own.
The Bees in Your Backyard: A Guide to North America’s Bees, by Joseph S. Wilson and Olivia Messinger Carril
A fantastic reference on bees, with beautiful photography, extensive comparisons & contrasts with similar-looking insects such as wasps and flies, and fabulous descriptions of each of the subspecies of bees. This one was from the library – I may have to buy a copy, so we can start learning the bees in our yard.
Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, by Mark Kurlansky
I kind of love Mark Kurlansky’s writing. I’ve also read Salt: A World History and The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell. I’m a huge fan of teaching through food – everyone can related to food on some level or another. Kurlansky weaves economics, geography, geology, history, culture, language, and pretty much every other possible study together, using a single a single food item as the focal point. I’m very much looking forward to finding Milk: A 10,000 year Food Fracas.