For the past several years, I have copied my friend Scott’s tradition of taking stock of my year – highlighting the biggest, most significant moments for me. Until last year, I did this only in my journal, taking time away from family and friends to go by myself and reflect over the year.
I’ve also listed the books I read, the works I published, etc. When I did this last year, I was astounded to see that I read slightly less than one book per month, with eleven books for the year. That’s not such a big deal, but I was used to reading upwards of 20 or 30 books a year, at least, in graduate school. I read fewer than ten my first year out of school. Eleven for the year in 2011. And this year, I improved, exceeding my goal of averaging one book per month.
(This may seem arbitrary and silly – setting goals for how many books to read. But I was taught, and I believe, that reading is essential to writing. To see what other people can do with language and ideas and form is essential in teaching me what I can possibly do with language and ideas and form. I love to read; always have. I know how important it is for me. I’m glad I’ve been making more time for it.)
So for this, my 200th post on Whisks & Words, I’m going to share with you the books I read in 2012; I originally intended for this to be one post, but it became quite long, so I’m splitting it into two parts.
(PS Can we take a time out for a second? 200 posts! It took me almost a year to get to 100 posts; that was mid-June. And here I am, six months later, at 200. Woot!)
My Books of 2012: Part One
I’m listing these in reverse chronological order; Part One starts with the book I read most recently; from there, I’m backtracking to the beginning of the year.
into the wild (jon krakauer)
This was a fascinating book to read. I saw the movie years ago, and I knew the story of Christopher McCandless, the young man who hitched around the west for a few years before heading off into the Alaskan wilderness on foot, surviving off the land for four months, before starving to death. It’s easy to make knee-jerk judgments of him, but Krakauer does a great job of weaving together the American narrative of ambition, curiosity, youthful recklessness, adventure, and the call of the wild that so many hear. A very interesting read.
travels with charley: in search of america (john steinbeck)
John Steinbeck set out on a cross-country trip with his dog, Charley, to see if he could define America. This book tells the story of that trip, and in a very brave and honest move, Steinbeck admits a certain level of defeat, unable to answer the question he set out to discover. I enjoyed reading the story and it was well-written, but I think by the end of the book, Steinbeck was ready to be done with it, and so was I.
apron anxiety: my messy affairs in and out of the kitchen (alyssa shelasky)
I won’t say too much about this book because I have a review of it forthcoming with Alimentum, but I loved it. It was a fun read, and the recipes in it are tasty and approachable. I couldn’t put this book down at times.
the sharper your knife, the less you cry: love, laughter, and tears at the world’s most famous cooking school in paris (kathleen flinn)
I read an article saying that books with exceptionally long titles sometimes catch our attention more than books with shorter titles. I suppose that’s true of this book. This memoir was a revealing look at one woman’s experience attending Le Cordon Blue in Paris. While I found her story entertaining and engaging, I also have to say it’s not the most amazing food memoir I’ve ever read. But if you’re looking for a fun read and a look into culinary school life, this is a book with looking at.
traveling with pomegranates: a mother and daughter journey to the sacred places of greece, turkey, and france (sue monk kidd)
As she was gearing up and gaining the courage to write her first novel, The Secret Life of Bees (which was, you know, sort of a huge success), Sue Monk Kidd and her daughter traveled to Greece, Turkey, and France, both of them at a spiritual crossroads, both attempting to solidify their individual identities, and both looking to forge their way to a new mother-daughter relationship, mother and adult child. I read this and then wanted to buy a copy for every woman I know, and her mother. This is a book I want to make people sit down and read so we can discuss. I was fascinated and inspired and moved and encouraged by this book. So, read it. Then we can discuss it.
an everlasting meal: cooking with economy and grace (tamar adler)
This book both frustrated me and educated me. Adler’s objective is to show her readers how cooking can (and should) become low-stakes, an everyday affair. No more running out for one special ingredient. Keep staples in your pantry, make the ends of one meal meet the beginning of another, and find ways to avoid wasting foods. It’s smart and sensible advice, and she has some great tips on how to make it happen. I’m not sure how feasible all of those tips are for home cooks with limited refrigerator space and kids running around and a tight schedule. I’m not sure how feasible it is for me, with somewhat limited fridge space and no kids running around and a flexible schedule. But her writing is beautiful and thoughtful, and the relationship she encourages us to have with food is organic and soulful. It’s worth reading.
Stay tuned for Part Two of My Books of 2012 tomorrow.