I got so excited about posting about Northanger Abbey, that I forgot to write about the book that I had finished the night before. Another Thing to Fall by Laura Lippman is the 10th book in the Tess Monagham series, which is probably my favorite mystery series at the moment. The books are all set in Baltimore which is a city with a lot of character and also a city with which I am somewhat familiar. It’s always interesting to read about a place that you know. Like her protagonist, Lippman was formerly a reporter for a Baltimore newspaper and she’s uses her knowledge of the city well.
Having been disappointed by my last mystery, I was happy to see that I still like Lippman and this series, even after 10 years (the first book was published in 1997, and I read it not long after – it’s good to have librarians in the family who pass books along!). Lippman has also published several really good, standalone mysteries, if you want to try her out without getting sucked into a series.
Golden Arches East: McDonald’s in East Asia is edited by James L. Watson with articles by a handful of authors regarding McDonald’s influence in five different Asian communities (Japan, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Korea). It’s an academic book and the authors are all anthopologists with lots of experience in the communities they write about. It’s a very interesting look at how Western companies interact with non-Western communities and the way that they both influence the other. The book was written in the mid-90s and I am curious how things have changed in the last decade plus. One thing that I thought was really interesting about the book was that pretty much all the authors said that McDonald’s has become “local” in East Asia, and isn’t really seen or treated as “foreign” – even though it is providing decidedly non-local types of food (whose ingredients are usually bought locally). I read a photo essay book a year or so ago that made a great visual point about the globalization of food products – Hungry Planet: What the World Eats. Also definitely worth taking a look at if you are interested in this topic. (Or just curious about other people’s lives, like me).
I finished two books this weekend, both relating to food.
The first book was Third Helpings by Calvin Trillin, a thin, humorous volume written in the 1980s. I read a selection of Trillin’s writing in American Food Writing and enjoyed it, so I added him to my “to read” list along with quite a few others. His writing reminded of nothing so much as Erma Bombeck, a writer who I had entirely forgotten until I read this book – even though I (embarassingly) read all the books of hers that my library had when I was in junior high. I enjoyed this book, but I think it was good that it is a short one, because his writing becomes rather predictable pretty quickly. I don’t think I need to read any of his other offerings, but this one was just the humorous break I needed for a day or so.
The second book I read this weekend (okay, okay, I finished it Monday morning on the train to work), was Climbing the Mango Trees by Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey is a noted actress and cookbook author and this is her memoir of growing up in India. As you might expect, the book contains a lot of discussions of food, but it is also an interesting, personal look at the time surrounding Indian Independence from the eyes of a child. I love memoirs, and I think one of the things that I like about them, in addition to the fact that they are intensely personal, is that they are often self-limiting, dealing only with a certain phase of a person’s life. I think this focus makes the books stronger, and Jaffrey’s restriction of the book to her childhood, certainly does that for me here.