Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.
The Hemingses of Monticello by Annette Gordon-Reed. This book was so good. In addition to being an interesting history of a family close to Thomas Jefferson, it made me look at slavery in a total different way. Living almost 150 years after slavery was abolished, I’ve really only ever though of it as a BAD THING, and never really considered what it was like to live under slavery or in a slave society. This book definitely opened my eyes and changed the way I see. Highly recommended.
The Intuitionist by Colson Whitehead. This was a book club selection and a good example of why I love my book club. I had never even heard of Whitehead, but I really enjoyed this book and discovered a new author, one who I really should have known, since his books have won all sorts of literary awards. I liked the way Whitehead writes and I really enjoyed the book club discussion. Yay, book club!
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri. A fictional tale, based on a true story, Yummy looks at the case of Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, an 11-year-old boy from the Southside of Chicago who shot and killed a girl in his neighborhood as part of a gang shooting gone wrong.
The Zabime Sisters by Aristophane. Set on the island of Guadeloupe (an archipelago of islands in the Carribbean that I never even knew existed until I read this book), this graphic novel follows three sisters on their first day of summer vacation. It really reminded me of parts of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents.
City of Spies by Susan Kim. This graphic novel in set in New York City during World War II and follows the adventures of two kids who are convinced they have discovered a German spy. The illustrations are in the style of 1940s comic books, which is a particularly good match. An entertaining read.
The Road to Revolution! by Stan Mack. I didn’t have very high expectations for this graphic novel, because the illustrations seemed a little amateurish, but I found myself really enjoying it. The story tells the tale of a boy and girl in Boston in the time right before the American Revolution and is quite in engaging. I think it would good for getting late elementary school kids interested in history.
The Stonecutter by Jon J. Muth. The Stonecutter is a Japanese folk tale with an underlying message of acceptance. The version I read was beautifully illustrated by John Kuramoto and is worth reading for the illustrations alone.
Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China by Leslie T. Chang. This book had been on my “To Read” list for a while, but I bumped it up after reading Country Driving by Peter Hessler and learning that Chang was his wife and had written about the factory workers in the same area that Hessler covers toward the end of his book. It took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I really enjoyed it. I especially liked the way that Chang intertwined her family’s history and their migration with stories of the workers she met.
Surfacing by Margaret Atwood. Cindy recommended this book and I’m glad I read it. It just added to my appreciation of Atwood as a writer. This third book of hers that I’ve read was once again quite different from the other two (The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace), but at the same time really well written. I’m more of a “plot” reader than a “words” reader, but I do like the way Atwood writes and I am enjoying her “words” more and more. There will definitely be more reading of Atwood in 2011.
Jami and I are enjoying a quiet, at home Christmas this year. We’re not going anywhere, and no one is coming to us. It’s definitely a new thing for me, and not without a little missing of my family, but I’m excited to have this quiet time together with our little family. Today we had a Christmas Eve date consisting of a tour of Lincoln’s Cottage at the Soldier’s Home, a walk through the city, some time at the National Gallery (and especially their lovely bookstore), and a traditional Christmas Eve dinner of Asian Tapas. It’s been a lovely day. Tomorrow we are looking forward to lots of yummy food, presents, and some calm, lazy, laying around time. I hope whatever you are doing with this holiday weekend, you are enjoying yourself just as much!
I think this may be my favorite Early Reviewer books of the year. Little Princes: One Man’s Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal by Conor Grennan is a book very much in the vein of Three Cups of Tea. Grennan first went to Nepal in 2004 for what was supposed to be a relatively brief (few month) stay at the start of a one year trip around the world. Volunteering at the orphanage outside Kathmandu was supposed to be his “good deed” before his big, fun, responsibility-free adventure. Grennan did leave Nepal after his stint was up, but couldn’t forget the children he had met and cared for there. He returned to Nepal again and again, eventually founding a non-profit, Next Generation Nepal, opening a second children’s home, and beginning a quest to find the families of the children within the two homes. (Most of the children were not truly orphans, having instead been trafficked by men who promised to take the children to safety in Kathmandu for large sums of money from the parents).
This was a captivating and engaging read. I finished it in two days and never wanted to put it down. It’s not being published until February, but I highly recommended it once it is available.
Fannie’s Last Supper by Chris Kimball was a fun book. The premise is as follows: Kimball, founder and editor of the magazine, Cook’s Illustrated, and host of the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen decides to create and served 12-course, Victorian dinner from Fannie Farmer’s 1896 Cookbook. As you can imagine recreating recipes from 1896 is a challenge, and sometimes fairly gross (Mock-Turtle Soup, made with a calf’s head. Ugh.). It was interesting to see how much cooking had changed in just over 100 years, and while it was really fun to read about this different food and to get a little history into how this country ate, it made me glad that I live when I do now when cooking doesn’t take all day and I never have to make gelatin from calves’ feet.
While the planning and preparation for this dinner took two years, and the books covers this, there was also a documentary made of the dinner itself, which is supposed to be showing on PBS “during the holidays”. So far I haven’t seen it listed on my local PBS station, but I am hoping to catch it when it airs. It would be interesting to actually see the food described in the book.
I really like truffles and I always thought they would be fun to make – and they are. It would be a good food project to do with kids actually because it’s messy and you get to lick chocolate off your hands at the end.
I decided to make truffles as my Christmas “food gift” this year. Jami and I are staying home for Christmas (A Christmas Made for Two!) and so I sent a lot of holiday packages to our relatives around the country and I wanted to include something a little more personal in them, so this year every package got truffles or spiced nuts, or a combo.
I did two batches, one with the traditional cocoa powder coating and one with a coating of toasted chopped almonds. I used this recipe and it couldn’t have been simpler.Truffles have to be made over the course of two days (there is a fair amount of chilling required), but the different steps didn’t take too long. I will certainly make them again.
I felt really lucky to get this book through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewer Program. How to Read the Air is the second novel by Dinaw Mengestu. His first, The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears, was set in Washington, DC, which is why I picked it up. It was also beautifully written, which is why I enjoyed it. This book has no DC connection. It follows the protagonist, Jonas Woldemariam, as he retraces the steps of his parent’s road trip from Peoria to Nashville, trying to make sense of his and his parents lives. It’s not really an uplifting book, Jonas’s parents had an unhappy and abusive marriage and his mother left once he was in college, Jonas’s marriage is falling apart, but as the story unfolds I found myself caring just as much as Jonas about what had happened and how the characters found themselves where they are. Mengestu is a great writer and if you haven’t read him before, I really recommend it.