Monday, January 18, 2010

Hookers, Mormons, Orphans, and Foodies . . . Oh My!

Back in November, I posted my top reads of 2009. Even though readers of this blog may get the impression that all I do is eat and watch television, I actually read quite a bit and wanted to update you with a few titles (not necessarily yearly top reads) that might be of interest.

In no particular order, I offer the following for your consideration . . .

Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann

McCann's novel offers a glimpse of New York City in the early seventies with stories told from the perspectives of various New Yorkers, whose stories often overlap. All the stories are somehow tied to that of the man (unnamed in the novel) who walked across a wire strung between the two towers of the World Trade Center. Readers of this blog know how much I love narratives in which unexpected or seemingly unlikely connections and friendships are forged. I love all the layers of this novel and was especially drawn in by the portraits of a mother-daughter pair of hookers, two mothers who lost sons in Vietnam, and a Irish monk living in the Bronx projects. I have no real sense of the seventies as a decade except for some vague images of bad clothing and brown carpet and the mushroom-detailed cannisters my parents received as wedding presents, and I felt like this novel gave me insight into a moment of history I tend to ignore.

Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl

I fear I won't do justice to Reichl's first memoir so I won't say much except that I loved this book and love Reichl's writing and the way she is able to write about so much more than food in everything of hers I have read. Her description of her mother's cooking and planning for her older brother's engagement party will remain with me for a long time for being simultaneously funny and tragic . . . unbelievable. Reichl's memoirs are so satisfying. Please read my friend E's review of Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires for a far more thoughtful account of Reichl as a writer. I ordered Reichl's second memoir, Comfort Me With Apples, and cannot wait until it arrives on Wednesday.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker

I'm sorry, but how can you not want to open a book with such a title? Love it. I'm more than a little bit fascinated with Mormonism, not fascinated like maybe I want to convert, but definitely interested in one of the world's fastest-growing religions. Baker's memoir is about her negotiating her faith with her single gal life in New York City and a significant weight loss. I loved Baker's account of working the doll nursery at FAO Schwarz and was really intrigued by her account of being Mormon and thus abstinent and non-drinking in NYC. Check it out.

Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

I always enjoy the writing of Nick Hornby. He is a master of characterization and of writing with humor and warmth. I like to imagine that Hornby had a lot of fun writing this novel because the narrative draws in his love for music and his familiarity with a certain type of obsessive, dedicated, passionate, earnest, message-board visiting music fan. If I were in a book club, I would look forward to discussing the ending of this novel with others.

The Kids Are All Right: A Memoir by Liz, Diana, Amanda, and Dan Welch

Can you imagine losing your father and then your mother over the course of just a few years? Can you imagine being the daughter of a famous soap opera star? Can you imagine your entire way of life changing almost overnight? Can you imagine dealing with all of this upheaval during your teenage years? This memoir, told by four siblings, tells the story of the Welch siblings as they deal with the deaths of their parents and strive to take care of one another. Understandably, these siblings remember some moments and events differently, but the end result is a powerful memoir. Plus, when you are finished, you can go to the book's website, and see responses/accounts from other friends and family members mentioned in the memoir.

As ever, I am embarrassed by these mini-reviews that I post here on NTB. I never have/take the time to write about these books and authors with as much thoughtfulness and care as I would like. Ah well, at least I'm reading and trying to encourage others to do the same.

As ever, I'm curious to know . . . what are you reading right now?


Amy said...

Yea! I needed new book recommendations! Recently finished "Same Kind of Different as Me"--I cried, but loved it. Am now reading "Mercy" by Jodi Picoult and "Work in Progress" by Kristin Armstrong. Thanks for continuing to supply me with good books!

Sarah D said...

I am super impressed that you find the time to read so much. I need to read more books. I read EW faithfully. But I don't read enough books!!

CaraBee said...

You know I am always looking for book recommendations, so I will definitely be adding these to my to-read list!

Actchy said...

"If I were in a book club..." Oh, MEP. Me, neither. So, so sad.

Thrilled with the list, and note the numerous NYC titles, which I love. I just finished reading World Without End by Ken Follett, which, dare I say?, is just as good as Pillars of the Earth. (!) I'm going to actually insist that you read it.

Shannon said...

My sister gave me the Elna Baker book for Christmas, but I have yet to read it! I'm currently working my way through Diana Gabaldon's "Outlander" series. I want to finish those before I start anything else.

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