Thursday, December 31, 2015

What I Read in December


Alright guys, settle down. Yes, I read a lot this month but I barely did anything else. The three of us were 'off' school from Dec. 8 and aside from two wonderful Christmas dinners with extended family, the holiday season was pretty slow for us. I spent this month of no extracurricular stuff on the couch reading nearly every night. It was delightful! Stay tuned, since I have 2016's reading list coming up soon.

*My Kitchen Year by Ruth Riechl - This half-memoir, half-cookbook was full of pretty color photographs from Riechl's year after Conde Naste shut down Gourmet, the magazine Riechl had been editor of for years. It's her year of grief over losing a job she loved, a year of confusion as she felt restless and like a wanderer, wondering what to do next, and of slow meals meant to satisfy herself and those closest to her, quiet in the sustenance of time and thought. It's a beautiful memoir, though I didn't have it long enough to try any recipes. Not as fun to read as Garlic & Sapphires, but good nonetheless.

*Why Not Me? Mindy Kahling - I can read these funny little pat-on-the-back books in two days, and I laugh pretty much through the whole thing. It's just like pt. 2 of her previous memoir, and if you liked that, you'll like this, too. This is a good vacation read, but I wouldn't suggest it for a book club read.

*The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks - This book was intense. I read everything of Brooks and this was her writing at it's best. It's the fictional story of King David from his boyhood through his death, and it was at least worth 4 stars. There are many places, however, where the writing and scenes are very graphic, including a rape/incestous part (which is taken from the Bible), and a disturbing relationship taken past verity. Out of any type of fiction, historical fiction is my favorite to read. As a student of the bible myself, I can admire the pains Brooks took with historically researching every gritty detail, but some license was a bit further than acceptable, in my opinion. It didn't stymie the enjoyment of the story, though.

*A House of My Own: Stories from My Life by Sandra Cisneros - Again, another strong female writer that I'll read anything she comes out with, Sandra Cisneros wrote a collection of stories from her childhood to present day, and it was a relaxing read. If you're not familiar with her other books like House on Mango Street and Caramelo, a lot might be lost, but I loved it. Start with those other two first (Caramelo is one of my all-time favorites), and if you like those, then continue with this.

*Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein - Carrie Brownstein is one of two guitarists in the girl punk band Sleater-Kinney, and also the creator of Portlandia, the hilarious tv show about the strange city. This was a memoir of her upbringing and her time with Sleater-Kinney. I was a little surprised how there was only one or two sentences about Portlandia, but that's not the story she was telling. SK took a long hiatus and at the beginning of 2015 started performing together again. I listened to them in high school and was interested enough. Have no idea who Sleater-Kinney is or have no interest in grrrrl/punk rock of the early 2000s? Skip it.

*Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 by Elizabeth Winder - The 7th female book I've read this month (which doesn't surprise me), I found this book so interesting! It was an entire book about the month Sylvia Plath spent in NYC doing an internship for Mademoiselle magazine, back in 1953, just a few months before her first suicide attempt. The Bell Jar (by Plath) is the book I read that made me take more notice of language and how to twist and turn it to create beauty. I collect her books--even have a few of her children's books that are hard to come by --and this was a strong book backed up by hundreds of quotes and interviews from the women who were with her that month. Don't know who Plath is? Take a pass on this, and go read The Bell Jar or her book of poetry, Ariel instead

*Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi - This memoir is written by a devout Muslim who converted to Christianity after an intense few years studying the differences between Islam and Christianity. It is well-written and interesting throughout, and I found it to be a page-turner. I also learned a lot about Islam and about the differing beliefs between sects. I was gifted this book by a friend and I know the next person I'm going to loan it out to, who will also enjoy it.

*Taproot issues: SHELTER and  FOLK - I normally wouldn't include magazine reading in my monthly reviews, but Taproot issues are basically a small book that comes out quarterly and they are so. good if you enjoy reading about homesteading lifestyles, yurts and making your own sourdough starter, jam swaps and the like. Basically, this subscription that I read cover-to-cover every three months is my hippie side getting its cuddles and pacificist advocacy in words. Might not be for everybody!

Read Aloud to Kids:

*Miracle on 34th Street by Valetine Davies - I found this Christmas classic in our pile of stories that we only take out in the month of December, and thought they'd be ready to listen to it, now that reading novels aloud is old hat for them. They really enjoyed this story, but because it was written in the early 20th century, the language was a bit hard for Ani to follow. Lukka did famously, though, and of course both kids enjoyed the final few chapters. It was really great that we read it before watching the movie, and randomly, we were able to catch it on a local TV station while waiting for our car to get fixed! How perfectly timed.

*The Story Diva &; Flea by Mo Willems - This short YA book was read to within about 45 minutes, and it's a very cute story of a stray cat and a prim dog, taking place in Paris. My kids loved this story, and adults will find the circular tale and awesome illustrations very amusing as well. Interspersed throughout were a few French words and phrases, which this francophile loved as well. You know you're reading a good book when it's the same author as the Gerald & Piggie books...


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