Books Worth Reading: Part Two

Below is a list of the books I am currently relishing.  Matt is fascinated with the fact that I can manage to read more than one book at a time (although I am not reading all of these books at the same time – more like three or four of them, but it’s my current group of must-reads).  It’s not often that a single book will seize all of my attention, though it does happen.  Usually if I am consumed with a story in such a way that I barely come up for air, it’s a sure bet that I will finish it within a day or two.

(Confession time:  I have another small stack of books that I hope to start reading soon, and I’ve carefully placed them in the very visible cubby of my bedside table as I am the embodiment of the saying out of sight, out of mind.)

I’ve included links to each book I mention so you can take a look for yourselves and read other personal reviews:

Bi-Rite Market’s Eat Good Food: A Grocer’s Guide to Shopping, Cooking, and Creating Community Through Food by Sam Mogannam & Dabney Gough – This is a perfect example of learning by taking baby steps.  Eat Good Food slowly and informatively guides those of us not too familiar with cooking (as opposed to just throwing a bunch of food together and eating it) and provides an abundance of material to help one buy, cook, and store every edible item you can imagine, from chocolate to potatoes to fish to bing cherries and everything in between.

The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper & Sally Swift – A book rich with storytelling and many entertaining quotes. One of my favorites that rings true with me…

Mashed potato is the gentile’s chicken soup. It’s nature’s tranquilizer. I take it instead of valium.
~ Andrew Payne.

In this book are recipes of every kind and involving almost any ingredient you can imagine. The unique difference I can appreciate between How to Eat Supper and most other cookbooks is that these recipes don’t come off as being pretentious or impossible.  Challenging, yes! But I didn’t take an interest in cooking simply so I could continue making grilled cheese sandwiches with various meats and call it a culinary adventure. Here, you’ll learn the base of a recipe but suggestions are given as far as trying different variations.  It’s where I got my idea for the lemon & thyme panna cotta!

Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett – It’s bread, people.  HOMEMADE.  And the title itself includes the word “simple”.  I haven’t baked up anything from this cookbook yet, but I’ve already brought home my rapid rising yeast and I’m prepared to have a go at it soon. The family got pretty excited when I suggested I make a nice bread bowl for the next time we have potato soup.  I mentioned baking a pot bread and got some raised eyebrows. For the record – pot bread only means the bread was baked in a pot, not that pot is an ingredient.  So firstly, my apologies to anyone I might have just misled. Secondly, if you really thought that’s what I meant, you need this book more desperately than I do.

Ghosts of Cape Sabine: The Harrowing True Story of the Greely Expedition by Leonard F. Cuttridge – Finally a book that doesn’t center around food! But only because these poor souls ran out of the stuff after being abandoned by the United States government and declaring a short-lived mutiny of sorts on their commander, all to end up eating each other. I came across this story while watching American Experience on PBS and absolutely fell in love with this crew.  The ship’s commander, Adolphus Greely, and other crew members documented their struggles with being left behind (by the military), isolation, depression, inevitable insanity, desperation, murder, cannibalism, and an unavoidable burden of a slow, painful death.  Also, Robert Todd Lincoln comes off like an unmitigated asshole.  His father would not have approved.

Vertical Hold by Jeff Simpson – I have never met Jeff but he is one of Matt’s closest friends. Here is a small fragment of Jeff’s work from the poem Hollow Light

In winter nothing is usable.
Everything is there for the viewing –
even breath has form.

As a behind-the-scenes kind of engineer, Jeff played a very vital role in my birthday celebration back in October and his words encouraged me to tell Matt, “I love you.” So, thank you, Jeff! Visit his website at www.jeffsimpson.org and be sure to check out The Fiddleback, Jeff’s online arts & literature magazine.

Frozen in Time: The Fate of the Franklin Expedition by Owen Beattie & John Geiger – Another story of yet another failed Arctic expedition?  I know! I’m not quite sure what has happened to my usual morbid taste in reading material such as serial killer biographies and Holocaust survival stories, but my head and my heart will certainly appreciate the break from such sadness.  The Franklin Expedition is a tragedy in its own right, however, one that researchers are only now beginning to understand was even more catastrophic than originally believed.  Besides the anticipated threats confronted by all Arctic explorers and the dangers of maritime work itself, new information has been unearthed (literally, as the crew’s bodies were frozen in the ice) and has led to the theory that many Arctic explorers, not just those on the Franklin Expedition, were killed by the lead in their food’s tin cans. And there are even pictures for those of you sick enough to be fascinated by such things, as I am, since the Franklin Expedition was one of the first to take with them a camera!  (Fun fact: Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, calls the book “groundbreaking”…the pun is intended, she admits. Ha! She’s so clever.)

Flying Without Fear: Effective Strategies to Get You Where You Need to Go by Duane Brown – This was recommended to me by a new friend in Oklahoma City who once suffered from a fear of flying as badly as I do now. Elizabeth and Matt must have joined forces (although I’m not sure they even realize it just yet) and I now own this book.  Matt had this waiting under the tree for me on Christmas morning.  I have thumbed through it quite a bit, absorbing some of the “rules of worrying” and probably mucking up the therapy process by going out of order, but I can’t help it.  When the author suggests that I be accompanied on my first flight by someone who expects and can tolerate that I’ll go apeshit midflight, why would I want to stop reading? Another favorite hint from the author:  “If turbulence comes, check the wings. If they are still attached, say, ‘I’m okay.’” I would like for HIM to accompany me on my first flight since he has this kind of experience with crazy people.

Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 by Michael Azerrad – For the second year in a row now, my friend Doug in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has sent me a copy of one of his favorite books of the year.  In 2010, Doug sent me my own copy of Mark Haddon’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.  This year, I received this book about America’s punk-rock DIY movement and features the stories of such bands as Black Flag, Minor Threat, Dinosaur Jr., Sonic Youth, and one of the most popular homegrown bands from my D.C. childhood, Fugazi.

Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food by Paul Greenberg – In 1944, a man was quoted as saying,

Fish is the only grub left that scientists haven’t been able to get their hands on and improve…

Oh, how times have changed.  While there is much research and literature about the disaster that has become our planet’s oceans, at least considered to be more interesting by the general public, there is little that touches on the fate of the animals that live in the seas and how overfishing has depleted so much of our world’s marine population. Focusing on the four fish that are regularly found on our menus – salmon, sea bass, cod, and tuna – Greenberg writes about the politics of fish as food, the fish farming industry, and the effects of the biotech revolution on our everyday living and our overall ability to respect nature. The first few pages made me a little sad but, then again, I do like to torture myself with horrid tragedies (remember, I voluntarily read McCarthy’s The Road).

Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser – I’m reading this on my NOOK, each and every night. It took some time for me to fall into the way Schlosser writes and to feel comfortable with his storytelling method, but I’m so glad I stuck it out.  This is one of those books that I truly cannot attempt to properly summarize.  There are so many aspects of the food industry that Schlosser exposes (from the treatment of animals to the treatment of workers) and I honestly found myself surprised by the way the U.S. government expects consumers to just accept the dirty leftover scraps of what’s being offered, both literally and figuratively. Just as Sinclair’s The Jungle gave the American public an opportunity to demand the rights and respect all workers deserve, Fast Food Nation describes how quickly it has all been taken away, right under our noses, through the power of industry and the greed of corruption.  Also, I haven’t allowed my child to eat at McDonald’s since I turned the first page. And their french fries are actually injected with beef – that’s why they’re so intensely tasty! Vegetarians, beware.

So, there you have it. I’m starting classes back up again on Monday and I’m quite worried that I won’t have time for reading, of the fun kind. Because, yes – I do find the death of our seas, tragic shipwrecks, and learning about foodborne illnesses to be quite entertaining.  And Margaret Atwood, too.

Groundbreaking? *snort* That’s just hilarious.

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2 thoughts on “Books Worth Reading: Part Two

  1. A blog helped me with the fear of flying thing, http://flightlevel390.blogspot.com/ . I’ve been reading this blog for several years now, but when I first started it, I went way back to his first post and caught up to the present. His writing has evolved over the years and is so good now that some of his readers probably have no interest in aviation, just his writing. Just hearing a mature pilot who loves his job describe what goes through his head has given me enough reassurance that I can fly with a certain amount of calm. (Whenever there’s one of those jolts to the tummy, I just mumble “hold my hand, Dave” to get through it.)

    • Then there is no reason I shouldn’t read it, as well! Congratulations – I hope to be there one day, in the air and the clouds…we’ll get there!

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