This year I started challenging myself to read no less than one book a month. This can be difficult with school and work and all, but something about setting a strict limit makes me place a higher priority on taking time to read. There is something meditative and transportive about a good book, and I wanted to devote more of my time to reading for fun.
Book one month one:
“An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace” by Tamar Adler
This book was an absolute revelation. It is part memoir and part cookbook that traces a series of revelations about food and cooking. Adler speaks about food with such romanticism and whit that I could’t help but relentlessly cook my way through each beautiful page. This is a must read for anyone who loves food or cooking. The recipes in this book use so much ingenuity. Using water that was used to cook beans as a soup stock, or saving the tops of carrots to make a pesto. It’s essentially an eloquent and pensive episode of Chopped. Nothing is wasted and every food item takes on many forms. I now have a stockpile of good olive oil, good parmesan, and lots of fresh herbs. This book changes that way I viewed cooking and was genuinely inspiring. I would highly recommend this read to anyone who needs their passion reignited, not only for cooking, but for life.
Book two month two:
“Motherland” by Maria Hummel
Motherland follows a family’s struggle during the Second World War. The father is a widowed surgeon who is working in a hospital far from home. Leisl, his second wife stays at home with his three sons and tries desperately to keep it all together. This story is intriguing because it is one that mimics letters written by Hummel’s grandfather. After letters between the German radiologist and his second wife were discovered in an attic, Hummel retold their story. I really wanted to like this book more than I did. I found it very cold and a bit dry. Even though there is some good imagery, most of the first three chapters requires the reader to make sense of many character and location names, and thereafter it can feel more like an event checklist than a personal narrative. I would only recommend this one to a real World War II enthusiast for more purposeful and less casual reading.
Book three month three:
“The Understory: A Novel” by Pamela Erens
This book hardly took me a week and a half to read. I could not put it down. The main character is so intriguing and very vividly portrayed. This story chronicles a man who is stuck rigidly in a routine. He has been living illegally in an apartment and is fighting eviction. Following a fire and an unhealthy obsession with a contractor, he is forced to leave his apartment and takes up residency in a monastery. This novel is dark but funny, painting the main character as intensely human. This book is full of insight into the mind of a lonely compulsive man desperately clinging to familiarity. A definite must-read.
I am in the midst of two very different novels at the moment. One, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened,” is a hilarious memoir by Jenny Lawson. Her childhood was outrageous and painfully embarrassing and she takes us on a journey that has made me laugh outlaid several times already. I can’t wait to see where this one goes!
I am also diving into what might be the exact opposite of Lawson’s memoir. My second book, “Justine,” by Lawrence Durrell. This book is full of elegant descriptions of the Egyptian town in which the story takes place. At this point my grasp on the plot is fuzzy at best but as of now it involves some lusty infidelity and a bit of backstory. This is a really tough read so far but I am starting to plant my feet in the story a bit more. This is the first novel of a three part series. I am excited to dive in!