Monday, November 24, 2008


Although somehow I'd hoped to tackle a few more books this fall, I have read several interesting books. I'm currently mostly on a non-fiction kick. The occasional fiction book will surprise me, but still I gravitate towards the non-fiction.
Lost Cosmonaut: Observations of an Anti-TouristThe Lost Cosmonaut is the anti-tourist tales of Daniel Kalder. This Scottish-born writer travels through 4 regions of Eastern Europe: Tatarstan, Kalmykia, Mari El, and Udmurtia. These little known countries are grim places and Kalder seeks out the grimness. His accounts can be somewhat amusing, but I often found him taking tangents (movie ideas, day-dreams, etc.) that seemed to distract from the already somewhat disjointed narrative. He writes with a sense of humor, which I enjoy, but he also unnecessarily throws in language. I did learn some interesting facts about countries I more than likely would never have heard of without reading this book. So, if you can put aside some of the idiosyncrasies of Kalder's writing style, there are facts to be learned.

Plenty: One Man, One Woman, and a Raucous Year of Eating Locally Plenty is the year-long local eating adventures of Alisa Smith and James Mackinnon. This Vancouver couple decided to spend a year eating only food from within a 100-mile radius of their home. Broken up into 12 chapters--each for a month of the year--the two authors alternate chronicling that month's eating. Their search for local food took them to previously unknown farms and fish markets. Potatoes are their staple food. Wheat their most desired food to find within a 100-miles. This book was a delightful, quick read filled with insights about our eating habits. It didn't inspire me to eat only local food, but is just another encouragement to consider what we're eating. I'd definitely recommend this, especially to those who enjoy food writing and thought.
Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel is the literary biography of L.M. Montgomery. Gammel takes the approach of chronicling the author's life as mirrored through her writing of Anne of Green Gables. According to Gammel, Montgomery has been a literary enigma. She kept journals, but destroyed some and rewrote many, editing them for publication, therefore, choosing what details the public would know about here. Through much research, Gammel presents a Montgomery through different eyes. I enjoyed seeing the writing process of Anne and how Montgomery's life played into the process, but I did feel that the book was a little repetitious as certain points were brought up throughout the entire book (like the photograph of Evelyn Nesbit, but model who apparently inspired the face of Anne). But, if you are a fan of Anne, then you'd probably enjoy reading about the strange woman who created such a charming character.
Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in ChinaOn a whim, I picked up Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper from the library and I was pleasantly surprised. Fuchsia Dunlop is a Chinese food writer and this is the story of how she fell in love with Chinese cookery and became an advocate of it through writing. In 1992, Dunlop was a British journalist traveling to Sichuan to study Chinese culture and politics for a year. After a couple months of study, she quit her classes and immersed herself in food, deciding she would eat anything put in front of her (and she does! goose intestines, shark's fin, chicken feet, snakes blood, pig kidneys). She visited with street vendors and restaurant owners and even worked herself into being allowed in kitchens. The following year, she enrolled in the Sichuan cooking school and became the first Westerner to study there. China was still ambivalent about foreigners, especially women, so throughout her travels Dunlop puts up with a lot of scrutiny especially as she ventured into closed regions of the country. This is a most fascinating read and I learned much about Chinese cooking and history. My one caution is: don't read it if you're squeamish about what people eat, because this book has it all!


Heather L. said...

Thank you so much for all the book reviews. They all sound like ones I'm interested in. i've added them to my list-- I'll let you know when I've read them. :)

I still have what's his names book on Australia on the shelf waiting to be read. I'm not getting as much time as I want to read and have my fingers in about 8 books just now.

Amy K said...

Oh, good! I love when people I know post these types of book reviews. Thanks! They all look so interesting.

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