Sunday, July 27, 2008

Summer Reading List

I read a LOT. This is no secret. I've always been this way. I was the kid who brought books to the dinner table - even when we ate in restaurants. I also read fast - my parents would have to buy me three paperbacks to get through a drive from Ypsilanti to the U.P. I actually read every book I was ever assigned in school (with the exception of The Scarlett Letter, which I am fairly certain that NO ONE in my honors English class actually read and should be removed from required reading. That book sucks.)

Anyway, when you are always seen with a book in your hand, it goes without saying that people ask you for recommendations. I've been asked several times to post my "must read" list on the blog, but I've refrained from doing so because I know the minute I hit "post" I'm going to think of four or five books I should have added and by the time I'm done the list will have forty-seven books on it.

However, I have decided that there is no harm in posting some recent recommendations from time to time. So, for those of you who have requested it - Amy's July Reading Recommendations. Let me know if you like them! And by the way - I am always looking for recommendations myself, if you have any suggestions...

For Foodies/Restaurant Employees/Home Chefs:
Garlic and Sapphires:
The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise
Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl came from L.A. to the east coast to take over as the food critic for the New York Times - which, you find out from this book, can be a pretty thankless job. After her first review she became more or less the most hated woman in New York City. She was also fairly recognizable, thanks to her mane of curly hair and the fact that the NYT put her picture on a billboard prior to her arrival. In order to experience restaurants as an average customer, Reichl enlists the help of an older acquaintance and a wig shop owner. Reichl's accounts of her various disguises are amusing and her food writing is nothing short of delectable. You'll also thank her for steering the NYT dining section away from reviewing only stodgy formal restaurants and toward exploring smaller neighborhood places and ethnic offerings. Reichl may have left the paper to be the editor of Gourmet magazine, but her influence is still all over the dining section.

Buy it here on Amazon.

For History Buffs/Royal Watchers/Tabloid Readers:

Sex With Kings
and/or Sex With the Queen

Eleanor Herman

Written in a dishy, gossipy style, these accounts of European monarchs and their sordid affairs is at times hilarious, outrageous, and eye-opening. The amount of influence a royal lover could have over political procedure is almost appalling. Honestly, Charles and Camilla are the most boring of the bunch. I thoroughly enjoyed both books, but actually prefer Sex With the Queen - often there was more at stake when a queen was keeping a lover and these relationships were generally carried out with more secrecy. Today's celebrities and politicians don't even know the meaning of the term "sex scandal."

Buy it here on Amazon.

Classy People/Travel Buffs/People with ongoing home improvement projects:
A Year in Provence and Toujours Provence
Peter Mayle

A British writer and his wife buy a house in the French countryside. Doesn't sound that interesting, does it? Well, Mayle's accounts of adjusting to the French timetable (projects begun in the summer often don't end until the next fall), the French lunch hour (make it two hours five courses) and a more or less totally unstructured lifestyle is fascinating. Mayle has a dry British wit that I find incredibly appealing on paper, and his descriptions of the characters, the scenery, and most of all the food will have you lusting after his lifestyle. You will cringe when his English friends infringe on his hospitality and drool over every meal description. Enjoy this book with a glass of Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape.

Buy it here on Amazon.

For Everyone - I can not recommend this book highly enough:

Water for Elephants

Sara Gruen

This is not exactly a recent recommendation - I read it last summer while house-sitting in Kalamazoo. Those of you who know me know that I NEVER cry at books/movies/etc. Well, the staff and patrons of Water Street Coffee Joint would never believe that because they watched me cry on and off through this whole book (not like, SOB or anything - just get a little teary-eyed). Water for Elephants is the best book I have read in a long time.

Set in depression-era America, Water for Elephants tells the story of Jacob, an aspiring veterinarian stripped of his resources by an unexpected tragedy. Jacob hops a train in the middle of the night, not realizing that he has accidentally hopped the train of a traveling circus. Before long, he is drafted into duty as the show's vet. Jacob finds himself caught in a love triangle with a beautiful horsewoman and the schizophrenic ringmaster amidst dealing with the everyday cruelties of the circus lifestyle.

Gruen's research and attention to detail are amazing. The notes in the back of the book are as fascinating and as sad as the fictional narrative (FYI if you read them - be prepared to be VERY upset with Thomas Edison). Men might be tempted to stay away from this one because it sounds like a sappy love story, but I promise you, this is historical fiction at it's best.

Buy it here on Amazon.

I hope these brief synopsis' encourage you to give some of these books a try. I'll post some more recommendations in August, and please let me know about any good books you've read as well!


Becky said...

I've been thinking about getting a copy of Water For Elephants for a few weeks now. I think I'm going to go in tomorrow and ask our buyer if she can get me a copy. haha, you and I should become long-distance book buddies. Since I work for Borders, I get free books all the time!

Amy W. said...

That is a GREAT idea!

Lyndsay said...

Haha, even if I don't post much on my blog, I still love to read yours! Anyway, as I prob told you at Ladies, I have been doing SO much reading this summer. Since then, I finished "A Thousand Splendid Suns", and now i'm in between "Unaccustomed Earth" by Jhumpa Lahiri and my Star-magazine book of the summer "Pledged" which is an investigative report about sororities. I'm going to start "Water for Elephants" as soon as i'm done... i'll let you know what I think...but i'm pretty sure i'll love it.

Bobby G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bobby G said...

I didnt like water for elephants, I got through MAYBE 200 pages & just had to be done. But see my problem is i dont like fiction, I like Non-fiction, books about the mob & serial killers & shit, so it just wasnt my style. I tried hard, but alas i failed.