The other night, as I prepared for friends to come over, I made Deb Perelman’s Mediterranean Baked Feta with tomatoes and olives. I halved cherry tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, worked my knife over parsley until it sprinkled fine. Amanda opened the vat of feta cheese. Have you ever worked with the whole block of feta? It comes floating in a tub of brine, a large, solid, clunky thing. I had a Cypriot roommate in graduate school, and she would buy feta from her church’s market, and so we always had buckets of brine with great blocks of feta floating around in them. It is immensely satisfying.
I checked items off the list – garlic, parsley, olives, tomatoes, big solid block of feta. And as I prepared to dump the tomato mixture over the block of feta and send it to soften and bubble in the oven, I realized I forgot the red onion. And what’s more, that Deb Perelman had forgotten the red onion as well when she made it. A quick reconciling: did we want the red onion? Need it? Would we miss it? We decided no. There was enough flavor without it. Just move on.
My Reading Month can sometimes feel like that red onion. The first days of a month pass me by, and I realize I haven’t updated my blog, and I think, should I scramble? Should I force myself to do it?
And so it’s been two months, just like that, and I have books to tell you about, of course. I’ll include a list at the bottom of this post of all the books I read in the past two months, as well as a few links to stories I’ve enjoyed. But I’ll talk at length about my two favorite books from the past eight weeks.
My Reading Month(s): March-April 2015
Currently Reading at Time of Publication
Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson & Grace Ellis
Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life by Natalie Goldberg
Highlights from March and April
- The first favorite book from the past two months is Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin. MacLaughlin was a journalist in Boston for many years. She watched the business go from engaging with “readers” to “users”, and her work went from writing to feeling like nothing more than a series of mouse clicks. She became disillusioned, and she had to get out. So she quit her job, and in searching for new employment, answered a Craigslist ad for a carpenter’s assistant – women encouraged to apply. MacLaughlin had no carpentry experience, but she rolled the dice, and thank goodness she did because the result is this book. She got the job and worked for years as an assistant to Mary, the carpenter who posted the ad. She learned to cut tile on her first day, to build bookshelves and cabinets. She learned the patience and care that must be taken in carpentry. And with a writer’s eye, she aligns talk of sawdust, nails, and bathroom tile with Dante and Ovid. This memoir is funny, thoughtful, bookish, and inspiring.
- The second favorite from the past two months is Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Y’all. This book. Rachel Chu has been with her boyfriend Nick for a couple years. They live a happy, simple life in New York, where they are both professors. And when Nick asks Rachel to accompany him back home to Singapore, where he will be best man at his best friend’s wedding, Rachel agrees. She’ll meet Nick’s family, see Singapore, eat some good food. But she has no idea that Nick is the beloved grandson of one of the wealthiest families in Singapore, and the family she’s about to meet know nothing of her existence. This book is populated by the worst people, and Kwan spins a layered and dizzying story of generations, money, scandal, and love. I could not put this down. I apologized for ignoring Amanda and just kept reading. And the great thing is that this is the first book in a series. The sequel comes out in June, so quickly, buy Crazy Rich Asians, plow through it, and then get ready for China Rich Girlfriend in June.
Around the Web
- Marisa Landrigan weighs in on food, field research, and writing in the digital world for Creative Nonfiction.
- Apartment Therapy perfectly hits the nail on the head about the line between being too busy, wasting time, and getting stuff done.
- Twenty great writers weigh in on motivating yourself to write.
March-April: The Reading List
(* denotes a fulfillment of the 2015 Whisks & Words Reading Challenge)
- Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter by Nina MacLaughlin
- Something True by Karelia Stetz-Waters*
- Departure from the Script by Jae*
- Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan*
- The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
- As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
- Girl in the Moonlight by Charles Dubow