Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer Reading

It's hot and sunny, perfect weather to read near a body of water. I would happily be sitting in a beach chair with my toesies in the surf if the water wasn't so forking cold here. Thank God my east coast vacation happens next month, where the ocean warms up enough to avoid death by hypothermia.

Here are some of my recent favorites:

1. The Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon. I won't lie--initially this book was confusing as hell. I forced myself to persevere because I so loved The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, and I'm really glad I did. Once I got my bearings (you can avoid my disorientation by reading pretty much any blurb about the book), I started over and then couldn't put it down. A virtual rewrite of history in which Israel is destroyed after WW II and Jews are resettled in Sitka, Alaska. The premise itself is sort of mind-boggling, but this funny/sad buddy detective story zips right along. Yes, there's a lot of Yiddish and some made-up words, but you'll figure it out. Plus author Michael Chabon lives in Berkeley, so reading him is the literary equivalent of being a locavore. Locabibliovore. There. I've just coined a new term.

2. What to Eat by Marion Nestle. This book is packed with very practical, common sense advice on what to eat, what not to eat and why. She also has a great blog at that site where she comments on current events in food politics, like when Kraft added vitamin E to Kool-Aid in an effort to convince consumers that colored sugar water can be good for your children's health. Blerg. I plan also to check out Food Politics.

3. The Abstinence Teacher by Tom Perrotta. Perhaps you don't recognize this name but if you saw Election or Little Children, then you know Tom Perrotta. His books are smart, funny skewers of middle American life but just as you think it's going to be a farce, a frothy romp, Perrotta injects a hefty dose of darkness and unease as his painfully human characters muddle through their messy lives with tragicomic results. Ugh. I've just irritated myself by using the word "tragicomic." You get the idea, though.

4. Pretty much anything by Anthony Bourdain. I've read Kitchen Confidential and just finished Gone Bamboo and really liked them both. Bourdain's got quite a foul mouth and seems like just the kind of person you'd want to have dinner with--especially if he's cooking. Also I actually learned some things about cooking, most of which I've forgotten already except: that little set up of dishes with chopped things and bowls of spices that you have at hand when you're cooking? It's called mis en place. I then actually saw that phrase used in the faboo cook-through blog French Laundry at Home and was ever-so-pleased with myself that I knew what she was talking about.

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