Yesterday, I began listing the books I read in 2012, sharing with you the stories and works I’ve paged through this year. I’ll continue that today to finish up my list of sixteen books read in 2012, exceeding my goal of reading one book per month.
My Book of 2012: Part Two
keeping the feast: one couple’s story of love, food, and healing (paula butturini)
Earlier this year, I resolved to read as many food-related books as I could in order to continue my education as a food writer. This book, Keeping the Feast, was a surprise for me. I purchased it from a bargain table at my local bookstore, and I didn’t expect the impact it would have on me. I wrote about it here on my blog, and the author, Paula, was kind enough to write back to me, leaving me a lengthy comment and then responding to an email exchange I started with her. This is another of those books that I want to make people read so we can discuss. It’s just gorgeous and intense and hopeful.
the kitchen daughter (jael mchenry)
McHenry’s first novel, The Kitchen Daughter, taught me a lot about point of view and how to weave food into a novel, letting it factor in organically instead of forcing it in. I had always been taught that a narrator or point of view character with limitations – mental illness, disability, addiction, etc. – couldn’t necessarily be trusted. That the narrator was sort of problematic. But this book, told from the point of view of a girl who has Aspergers, and who then begins seeing ghosts, was thoughtful. I trusted the narrator. And even more than trusting her, I felt for her. I was close to her, cheering her on. The story gave me a lot to think about in terms of my pre-conceived notions of narrators and point of view. But on the level of sheer reading, the book was entertaining and heartfelt. Definitely worth reading.
the gastronomical me (mfk Fisher)
Ah, my first M.F.K. Fisher. This book was at times intensely entertaining, at times a little veiled with inside jokes, and at times just a bit dry, but M.F.K. Fisher had a hand in making food writing what it is today, and I’m so glad I read it. Yesterday afternoon, I read another essay by M.F.K. Fisher (in another book) about the right kinds of foods to serve if one wants to seduce their dining partner. It was hilarious and insightful. I love M.F.K. Fisher for all her purity, her naughtiness, and her way of describing food. The Gastronomical Me was a great work of hers to start with.
from absinthe to zest: an alphabet for food lovers (alexandre dumas)
My friend Andrea got me this little book for my birthday, and it proved an incredibly useful teaching tool. I assigned it to my students, and then we did sort of a culinary time capsule project, where they had to pick a food characteristic of our world today (as Dumas did when he covered how to eat and prepare green beans, poultry, dog, and bear) and describe them and their preparation for audiences 150 years in the future. Dumas presents some highly unusual foods and some high-level bravado, and it’s fun to read.
in defense of food: an eater’s manifesto (michael pollan)
My first Pollan! I forbid my roommate from talking about this book when she first read it (mostly at the dinner table), but I’m glad I finally read it. My issue with all of these kinds of books comes down to accessibility and socioeconomic issues: the single mother raising three kids without child support and working 60 hours a week cannot tend an organic garden in her backyard and afford free-range organic chicken. Plain and simple. So what do we do with that? But those issues aside, this book was informative, enlightening, and thought-provoking.
a homemade life: stories and recipes from my kitchen table (molly wizenberg)
This book is so, so lovely. I found myself crying over it several times, and also laughing. That was somewhat tricky since it made me cry while I was sitting in my office at school. It’s very moving, heartfelt, and entertaining; Molly Wizenberg has a down-to-earth story of her food history, and she has a way with words. The recipes are lovely, and the story is one I could relate to. It’s definitely one I recommend reading.
water for elephants (sara gruen)
Gracious, this is the last time I read fiction! I read this in April, and it was fantastic, a great novel. I wish I could read fiction without 900 different insecurities settling in. But I’m glad that before I left reading fiction behind in the interest of writing it, I got to read this novel.
dolci di love (sarah-kate lynch)
A vacation read if ever I saw one, this novel has a completely improbable but nonetheless entertaining love story, a woman finding herself, some kooky old ladies working their busy-body magic, and Italian cookies to boot. A fun read.
the magician’s assistant (ann patchett)
Oh, how I love Ann Patchett’s work. Love, love, love. This novel was gorgeous and just reminded me how much I love her writing. I don’t care about the flaws. There. I said it. This particular novel taught me a lot about form and how I might fashion my own novel. Just a gorgeous, heartfelt novel.
the rebel wife (taylor m. polites)
I began the year with a book I read for a review I was writing – and truth be told, I didn’t love this book. But I know a lot of people did. It’s got all the things you expect of Civil War-era romantic fiction, from sweeping gowns to a mysterious death to a conspiracy. But there are also a lot of things I had trouble getting down with.
When I make these lists of the books I read, I like to look at trends, shifts, patterns. I decided, late spring, to read as many food books as I could, and that has been immensely helpful in my own writing. As I said above, I find reading fiction very difficult right now because I’m not yet confident enough in my own fiction writing to let someone else’s voice in; it only makes me think I’m doing everything wrong. So while I get more confident, I’m reading nonfiction, memoir, and I’m enjoying that a lot. I’d never given much time to memoir before, but I’m glad I am now.
What’s the best book you read in 2012?