Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Books 2009 -- #11-18

I've really gotten behind on documenting the books I've read in 2009. I've vowed to get caught up in the next week or so.

Franny and Zooey Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger

rating: 4 of 5 stars

So short, but so interesting! I found the prose to be more current than its publish date would suggest. A lot to think about here concerning ego, family relationships, and being stuck vs. taking action.

East of Eden (Centennial Edition) East of Eden by John Steinbeck

rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved it. Just loved it. I was a big Steinbeck fan when I was in jr. high/high school, and I am pretty sure I read East of Eden way back then, although I can't figure out why the only familiar things were the characters' names!

His writing is not esoteric; in fact, it's very down to earth, and yet just chock full of interesting insights. The characters are so well-developed -- the almost unimaginable evil in Cathy, the vicious cruelty of Charles, the jocular wisdom of Samuel, the quiet devotion of Lee; and yet, none of them is truly one-dimensional, we see good and bad in almost everyone -- especially Cal.

Some favorite passages:

"And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way."

"When a child first catches adults out--when it first walks into his grave little head that adults do not have divine intelligence, that their judgments are not always wise, their thinking true, their sentences just--his world falls into panic desolation."

"The direction of a big act will warp history, but probably all acts do the same in their degree, down to a stone stepped over in the path or a breath caught at sight of a pretty girl or a fingernail nicked in the garden soil."

"It is possible that his virtue lived on a lack of energy."

"Adam thought how a man doing an ugly or brutal thing has hurt himself and must punish someone for the hurt."

"If the style of dress is an absurdity, it is pain and sorrow to a child not to wear that absurdity."

"There's a capacity for appetite," Samuel said, "that a whole heaven and earth of cake can't satisfy."

The Middle Place The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'd give it 4.5 stars if I could. I read it in 2 days without even trying.

I love the writing, the author is just so real. I love how much she loves her parents and siblings, as well as her husband and children. The middle place. Why didn't I think of that?

Her battle with cancer was inspiring, but for me it was more about the relationships, which were wonderful and even more inspiring.

The Commoner: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) The Commoner: A Novel by John Burnham Schwartz

rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'd give this one 3.5 stars if I could, because I liked it more than 3 stars would imply. Haruko is "the commoner", a very bright but sheltered girl from a middle-class Japanese family. She catches the eye of the Crown Prince and becomes his wife -- contrary to Imperial tradition and much to the concern of her parents. She realizes in stages how much she has given up by joining the royal family. Her time is planned out for her, her mobility highly restricted, and even the raising of her children is largely outside of her domain. I think the most shocking thing to me was how recently the novel was set. It ends around 2005, with very little freedom gained over time by the Empress and the princesses.

The novel does end on a hopeful note, which I will not divulge here for the benefit of anyone who might read it.

Knitting Patterns for Dummies (For Dummies) Knitting Patterns for Dummies by Kristi Porter

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I learned scads of new knitting techniques in this book, as well as getting some ideas for patterns I'd like to try. My favorite pattern in this useful tome is for "muffatees", which Peter Rabbit's mother used to knit to make ends meet, but I plan to make for myself and friends. These are wristwarmers that end in all-important ruffles peeking out of jacket sleeves. Be still, my heart.

(I have now started my first pair of muffatees, and it's making me excited to be able to actually wear them in the Fall... double-pointed needles aren't all that bad.)

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg

rating: 4 of 5 stars

This whole concept is brilliant to me. Mix up some bread dough (by hand, even!), store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, make bread quickly and easily whenever you wish. So far I've only made the basic recipe, with great results. Now I want to branch out and try many of the others. I love artisanal breads, and you just can't make them any easier than this! Much tastier than buying from an (American) bakery -- and more economical, too.

This is one I checked out from the library, now I want my own copy.

Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal by Rachel Naomi Remen

rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are a lot of gems in this book. Perhaps my favorite part was the section on love vs. approval -- so insightful, so thought-provoking.

A small excerpt:

"Judgment does not only take the form of criticism. Approval is also a form of judgment. When we approve of people, we sit in judgment of them as surely as when we criticize them. Positive judgment hurts less acutely than criticism, but it is judgment all the same and we are harmed by it in far more subtle ways. To seek approval is to have no resting place, no sanctuary. Like all judgment, approval encourages a constant striving. It makes us uncertain of who we are and of our true value. This is as true of the approval we give ourselves as it is of the approval we offer others. Approval can't be trusted. It can be withdrawn at any time no matter what our track record has been. It is as nourishing of real growth as cotton candy. Yet many of us spend our lives pursuing it."

Although I enjoyed this book, I think I preferred My Grandfather's Blessings by the same author.

The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible As Literally As Possible by A.J. Jacobs

rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'll probably read anything A.J. Jacobs writes. I really enjoy his wit and observations. In this book, he reads the Bible (many versions), consults with various spiritual advisers, and goes on field trips in his quest to explore religious life. He starts out as an agnostic but ends up making many poignant (and humorous) realizations about the value of prayer and a faith-based life.

While I really enjoyed this book, I loved The Know-It-All even more. I would LOVE to meet this guy's wife -- man, has she ever put up with a lot for his book projects!

View all my reviews.


Shauna said...

Just when I am looking for a new summer read....thank you for taking the time to post these reviews!

wende said...

east of eden is probably my number one favorite read of all time. you highlighted one of my reasons for supporting this opinion - being able to see the good and bad of every character. and, i love all the biblical parallels. this made for our best book group discussion to date.

and thanks for the all the other fun reading ideas! it's so great to have a recommendation.

Gail - Artist Mom said...

I launched into the artisan bread world with the recipe on your blog. I loved that one, but found that I struggled with knowing the day before that I would want to serve it for dinner. I also read the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a day, but instead of the pizza peel & baking stone method, I just use the dish towel and dutch oven method from your recipe.

Thanks for sharing your books. I am planning to read several of them. Are you on goodreads.com ?

Denise said...

Someday--someday I'll have time to get to your incredible lists of book recommendations.

Jill said...

I am far behind on documenting the books I've read this year as well. It irks me that I've gotten behind like this.

You're such a fast reader, I wish I had your speed. I'm glad you vowed to catch up with your documentation.

rebekah said...

i almost read the year of living biblically. i picked it up from goodwill, then for some reason never got around to it. those types of stories do fascinate me if the hook is good enough. i imagine his life was extremely complicated and filled with exacting practices during this time.

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