Sunday, October 28, 2007

book meme—my first

This easy, short meme looked like just the thing to reinvigorate posting on this blog!

Take the nearest book next to you and answer the following questions:

Title and Author:
The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson

Is the book dedicated to anyone? If so, whom?
To Virgil Williams and Dora Norton Williams (these sketches are affectionately dedicated by their friend, the author)

What is the first sentence?
“The scene of this little book is on a high mountain.”

Turn to page 47. Please share the first sentence of the first full paragraph.
“There was no stove, of course, and no hearth in our lodging, so we betook ourselves to the blacksmith’s forge across the platform.”

Join in if you want! (via Verbatim)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

40 for 40

Because I cannot resist making lists, here’s another for a new Reading Year.

1. What Is the What (Dave Eggers)
earlier this year, reviewers called this book important; my friend Suzanne highly recommended it
2. Cryptonomicon (Neal Stephenson)
Neal Stephenson is a genius, and it's time to read a really long book
3. A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
L’Engle has been on my mind since her recent death
4. Cliffs of Fall (Shirley Hazzard)
found a remainder of this story collection, which looks more approachable than The Great Fire
5. Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
sequel, which I’d like to read, was just released
6. Special Topics in Calamity Physics (Marisha Pessl)
friend Caryl recommended it, and I've been impressed by strong reviews
7. Suite Francaise (Irene Nemirovsky)
a 2007 Conversation with Books selection, friend Caryl recommended it
8. Suffer the Little Children (Donna Leon)
a 2008 Conversation with Books selection
9. Summer (Edith Wharton)
Another 2008 Conversation with Books selection
10. The Sun Also Rises (Ernest Hemingway)
Spain, bull-fighting, 20th anniversary of when I first read Hemingway
11. Taxonomy of Barnacles (Galt Niederhofer)
Great review in the New York Times last year, shelf-sitter
12. Appointment in Samarra (John O’Hara)
moody and atmospheric, 1950s manners and morals
13. On Beauty (Zadie Smith)
strong reviews, shelf-sitter
14. New York Trilogy (Paul Auster)
trying to satisfy an Auster craving with these classics
15. The Wicked Position (Dawn Powell)
shelf-sitter; purchased almost ten years ago at Prairie Lights in Iowa City
16. Our Man in Havana (Graham Greene)
classic espionage
17. Revolutionary Road (Richard Yates)
class 1950s ennui
18. Murder in the Marais (Cara Black)
gritty mystery in wonderful Parisian setting
19. Architecture of Happiness (Alain de Botton)
architecture; popular writing to inspire my profession life
20. Vile Bodies (Evelyn Waugh)
a favorite author; about the Mitfords
21. Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures (Vincent Lam)
linked stories about medical students and doctors , read a strong review recently
22. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral (Barbara Kingsolver)
beyond eating locally and seasonally, this is Kingsolver’s account of growing her own food
23. Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
I don’t know anyone who hasn't loved this
24. Where I Came From (Joan Didion)
Didion nonfiction, California setting
25. The Last Thing He Wanted (Joan Didion)
Didion was my discovery author for ’07; picked this up at City Lights recently
26. Man Who Walked Through Time (Colin Fletcher)
classic walking book
27. In Patagonia (Bruce Chatwin)
Argentina, classic travel essay
28. Omnivore’s Dilemma (Michael Pollan)
for "family book group"—my dad and sister will read too
29. Fried Eggs with Chopsticks (Polly Evans)
enjoyed It’s Not About the Tapas and would like to read more Polly Evans
30. Four Seasons in Five Senses (David Mas Masumoto)
my sis gave this to me last year for my birthday, food and nature
31. Every Eve (Isobel English)
a lost classic published by Persephone, a gift from a friend
32. The Silverado Squatters (Robert Louis Stevenson)
1880s Napa lifestyle, inspired by recent trip to Northern California
33. Big House (George Howe Colt)
sustaining my interest in architecture
34. Judgment of Paris (George Taber)
recent trip to Napa and continuing wine education inspire me
35. Kingdom by the Sea (Paul Theroux)
Theroux is a favorite and we’re going to England, summer ‘08
36. When French Women Cook (Madeleine Kammen)
culinary essay
37. Collected Stories of Carol Shields
short stories and an opportunity to read Shields
38. Adventures in the Rocky Mountains (Isabella Bird)
delightfully packaged travel essay in a new Penguin series
39. A Romantic Education (Patricia Hampl)
shelf-sitter, which I last tried to read in 1999; George Janecky loved this
40. A Time of Gift (Patrick Leigh Fermor)
another classic walking book

The list reflects some of my current interests—reading books set in Napa Valley and books about walking, architecture, and travel. Here is a short list of books that didn't make the main list but that might make guest appearances:

The Hungry Tide (Amitav Ghosh), read enticing flap copy recently
Stet (Diana Athill), a recent purchase
A Year in the World (Frances Mayes) a 39 for 39 leftover
Poet of the Appetites (Joan Reardon), a 39 for 39 leftover
something by MFK Fisher, a 39 for 39 leftover
The Thief Lord (Cornelia Funke), a 39 for 39 leftover
Harriet the Spy (Louise Fitzhugh), a 39 for 39 leftover
Gone-Away Lake (Elizabeth Enright), missed this one when I was a kid
The All-of-a-Kind Family (Sydney Taylor), loved this series, would be reading now with daughters
Jane Austen Book Club (Karen Joy Fowler), a 39 for 39 leftover, want to read before I see the movie
Feeding a Yen (Calvin Trillin), a 39 for 39 leftover
White Ghost Girls (Alice Greenway), a 39 for 39 leftover
Liquor (Poppy Z. Brite), NOLA
New Orleans Noir, anthology, NOLA
House of Blues (Julie Smith), NOLA mystery
Best American Travel Writing 2007, anthology
Death by Pad Thai, anthology compiled and edited by Douglas Bauer
Granta's Best of Young American Novelists 2, anthology with some of my favorite writers
Bacchus and Me (Jay McInerney), wine writing

booker prize winner!

Outsider beats favorites to scoop prize for tale of dysfunctional family life set in IrelandAnne Enright's The Gathering is the 2007 Booker Prize winner

Thursday, October 11, 2007

fall=literary-awards season

The fall is a great time to be a reader, for so many reasons. Not only do you have all the heaviest-hitting, highest-quality books being released in time for the holidays, but you also have the announcement of major literary awards. This week alone has yielded a bounty.

The National Book Award finalists were announced. Hands down, the NBA is my favorite literary award. It represents the best American literature. As with many awards, it is not without its faults, but year after year, the nominees are the sort of books I want to read. And unlike the Booker Prize (present list excepted), you've likely heard of at least a few NBA finalists.

From this year's fiction group, I have read Mischa Berlinksi's Fieldwork. My book group is about to read the Sherman Alexie, which is on the children's list. In between, I have designs on the Joshua Ferris and Christopher Hitchens's God is Not Great.

Also this week, the Nobel Prize for Literature was bestowed upon Doris Lessing, an author I have had good intentions to read for over twenty years.

The National Book Award will be announced on November 14, at which time Michael Cunningham will also present the foundation's lifetime achievement award to Joan Didion, who so deserves it! This is a great time to discover Didion if you've never read her. If you have read her bestselling memoir, The Year of Magical Thinking, do yourself a favor and dip into her earlier fiction (such as Play It Where It Lays) or reportage (such as the essays collected in Slouching Towards Bethlehem).

The Booker Prize winner will be announced next week, on October 16. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

chelsea cain blogging at

Chelsea Cain is this week's guest blogger at

Go check out her posts—she's very funny, and you're in for a treat!

Monday, October 01, 2007

september round-up

Admit it. You thought the reason I haven't posted for eons was becuase I was so busy reading books that couldn't possibly have any time to blog. How I wish that were true.

The first month of school has proved to be brutal. And, no, I'm not in school. My awesome sons—ages 5 and 7—are both school-agers. The school year has historically been my favorite time of year. Perhaps I've mentioned before that I was one of those geeky kids who preferred school to either weekends or summer, both of which made me feel at loose ends.

Even though I finished my formal education nearly twenty years ago, I still prefer the school year. I like our routine, which begins early with school start times and ends with the boys' bedtime and is interspersed with little pockets of time when I might dip into a book. Au contraire.

I’m more likely these days to fall asleep reading, to work through my lunch break—which is a great reading opportunity—or to be interrupted by my (sweet but demanding) little family. I harbor deep fantasies of reading unimpeded for an hour, knocking off a chapter or more.

Even though I failed to finish a single book during the month of September, I am diligently working my way through four books:

Mommy Tracked by Whitney Gaskell
A refreshing, lighthearted novel about four friends who happen also to be mommies. Situations—bleak and humorous, alike—hit close to home.

French Fried by Nancy Fairbanks
The second book in this culinary mystery series I have read. I like the protagonist, the attention to food, and the setting, which is Lyons, where I spent ten delightful days in 1998.

Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson
I’ve read every book in this mystery series featuring caterer Goldy Bear. Again, I read the series for the highly likable protagonist, the attention to food and the setting, a fictitious mountain town in Colorado.

United States of Arugula by David Kamp
Michael Ruhlman—a god among nonfiction writers—gave this a nod on his blog. Ruhlman claims he read it on a flight. I also started the book on a flight, with small children, and managed 20 pages. It’s a sweeping history of the American food revolution, and it’s easily consumed.

On my radar
Alex and the Ironic Gentleman (a children's novel by Adrienne Kress)
Not that You Asked (a collection of off-beat essays by ever-humorous Steve Almond)
A Wrinkle in Time (a classic children's novel by Madeleine L’Engle, recently deceased)
Bridge of Sighs (a new novel by a favorite writer, Richard Russo)