Friday, January 11, 2008

What I'm Reading: An Assortment

With all this posting about bookshelves, it seems like I should catch up a little on the actual books.

I am a big fan of food memoirs (shocking revelation) but I wasn't all that wowed by "Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America." I think Diana Abu-Jaber set the bar pretty high with "The Language of Baklava." This book, by Linda Furiya, follows the same format, with anecdotes followed by recipes. The writing was fine, but I just didn't find the stories to be all that compelling. Maybe a little more humor and a little less hand-wringing about the agonies of growing up in the only Asian family in small-town Indiana would have helped. I liked the parts about her parents and their histories the best. The recipes also didn't appeal to me that much, and one recipe was included twice.

"The Best Food Writing of 2007" is just a nice collection of magazine articles, book chapters and newspaper stories on food and food trends. Entertaining, interesting and readable in small bites.

Yes, I finally got around to "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." What can I say? It's a fun way to completely blow off a day.

I really enjoyed "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks, a novel about a book conservator and the Sarajevo Hagadah, an illuminated manuscript with a mysterious past. The novel alternates chapters about the conservator and the lives of those who brought the book from the past to the present. Interestingly, the conservator's story moves forward in time as the book's moves backwards. That's an unusual plot device that could be really annoying or gimmicky, but Brooks does it skillfully. This was quite an engaging read.

I've just started "Alice Waters and Chez Panisse: The Romantic, Impractical, Often Eccentric, Ultimately Brilliant Making of a Food Revolution" by Thomas MacNamee. I've eaten at Chez Panisse a couple of times, both wonderful, but I only know a little about the woman behind the restaurant and the sea-change in American cooking.

Pictures from my second visit there are here (alas before I discovered the secrets of white balance on the camera). Assessment of the book to come.

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