Thursday, November 18, 2010

A cry for help, in so many ways.

Man. This is one dorky post.

I just finished it, read back through it, and carefully considered whether or not to hit "publish." This post has little (i.e., nothing) to do with Austin.

It has everything to do with being a book nerd.

But -- publish we shall, comrades. Because this is an earnest appeal.  Hopefully I won't bore you to tears here, and hopefully, you are an unapologetic book lover like me.  So I ask you, readers of Austin, readers of the world: To help me.

See, I am in a dysfunctional relationship with my current book stack.  I read every night before I go to bed, and just feel like something is missing from my evening ritual.  The contenders:

Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain) 

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry (Kathleen Flinn)

Fever Pitch (Nick Hornby)

The status:

Kitchen Confidential -- FINISHED. Bourdain's brash behind-the-scenes look at culinary culture. The book that made him famous. He wrote it 10 years ago, and with each shocking revelation he shares (like the fact that brunch, our most fetishized meal, is made out of a kitchen's old, old leftovers), you can tell he wants the reader to think, "why, that's just appalling!  I just -- just -- had no idea!"  And I didn't.  But the point is, I don't like feeling manipulated while I'm reading a memoir.  I just want you to be smart, and relateable, and funny without trying too hard (... and, wow. This sounds like I'm talking to a boyfriend, rather than a book, non?).

An older, wiser Bourdain admits in the second edition preface that the text may be just a bit too macho, so ok, he gets it.

The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry -- 3/4 FINISHED. Oh, how I want to love this one. Listen to the set-up, ladies: Girl gets sacked from Microsoft, girl has lifelong dream of going to Le Cordon Bleu cooking school, but girl is practical, girl throws caution to the wind anyway and cashes out her life savings to attend Le Cordon Bleu, IN PARIS.  Everything estrogeny in me says, goodie! for a book like that. And yet ...

Kathleen Flinn, the author, is the type of woman I could see myself being friends with in real life. She's professionally driven, but has a romantic heart. The only thing is, her storytelling feels too much like the former quality.  By which I mean, professional.  It's very thorough reporting, her description of each Le Cordon Bleu class.  But you and me, we're not going to attend Le Cordon Bleu in Paris anytime soon, are we?  No. Likely not. We want life lessons.  Humor.  Subtleties of wit and observation.  At least, I do.

When it comes right down to it, I think I just want this book to be funnier. I want Kathleen to be a little more bumbling in the kitchen, when in fact, she's very good. I want her to cry big, snotty tears when she fails her Le Cordon Bleu dishes, but she has a supportive boyfriend the entire time!  Le sigh.

To be fair, I also didn't finish Eat, Pray, Love, a similar sort of tale, and whose writing style I loved. I tend to not give these books -- meaning, unlucky-woman-takes-off-on-travel-fantasy books -- a fair shake. I don't know why.  Probably because I am bitter and jealous, at the outset, of their adventure.

Fever Pitch -- JUST STARTED. This one I'll probably stick with. Nick Hornby (A Long Way Down, High Fidelity, How to be Good) never lets me down. This is his memoir about being an obsessive soccer (or his British "football") fan, and while the tears of laughter aren't exactly rolling down my face, as they do early and often in Hornby's novels, I have faith.  I suspect Fever Pitch is especially appealing to the reader who can relate to the culture of spectator sports, and who really understands what it means to be a sports fan, the type who tailgates and takes team losses personally and shares this emotional swell of pride when his or her team does well, as if they themselves were personally responsible for the UT Longhorns (or New Orleans Saints, or Texas Rangers, or whatever your team)' success on the field.

Which is not, admittedly, me.

Still: It's Hornby's sense of humor that gets me. In the chapter I read last night, he described being a boy from the suburbs, and going through a stage where he adopted a working class cockney accent. This, while his sister suddenly started speaking as if she were Princess-In-Waiting to the English throne.  When friends of the family met the two together, no could figure out which one had been adopted?  Giggle.  Thank you, Nick Hornby.

*  *  *

As you can see, I love my memoirs.

But I want to know, what was the last book that made you positively sad when you came to the end, because you wanted to go on reading? Memoir, fiction, non-fiction, etcetera?

I tend to buy all of my books at Half-Price Books on North Lamar, and perhaps that is the problem. I'm not giving new literary talent a chance. Like the freaking girl who wears hornet tattoos and kicked the dragon's nest and blabity-blah -- I feel like I should read those.  Because there has been so much hype. Have any of you gotten into the series?  Is it good?

I read about this freaky, awesome sounding book in O, The Oprah Magazine (another dorky obsession of mine: O), called Room, by Emma Donoghue.  Listen to the description:

In many ways, Jack is a typical 5-year-old. He likes to read books, watch TV, and play games with his Ma. But Jack is different in a big way--he has lived his entire life in a single room, sharing the tiny space with only his mother and an unnerving nighttime visitor known as Old Nick. For Jack, Room is the only world he knows, but for Ma, it is a prison in which she has tried to craft a normal life for her son. When their insular world suddenly expands beyond the confines of their four walls, the consequences are piercing and extraordinary. Despite its profoundly disturbing premise, Emma Donoghue's Room is rife with moments of hope and beauty, and the dogged determination to live, even in the most desolate circumstances.


This one might have to be the next on my reading list.

But. Before I rush out and order it, tell me:

what books do you love? have you loved? have made you sad when you reached the end?

The last ones that made me clap my hands in delight were Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, Born Round, by Frank Bruni, and Spoon Fed, by Kim Severson. All food memoirs. All by New York Times food critics. I know. I think there may be an unhealthy obsession at work here, one that runs far deeper than memoirs.


katherine said...

ohhhhhhhhh goodness, you need to read special topics in calamity physics by marisha pessl. it was a little slow at first, and it took some adjusting getting used to her writing style, but when you come to the end, you won't want to put it down. i stayed up until 4:30 am ON A SCHOOL NIGHT to finish. ms. reynolds was tired that day, but it was worth it.

same for "the girl with..." series. i bought the first one in the airport on my way to france, finished it, and then went on a mad dash scavenger hunt around paris to try and find an english bookstore so i could buy the next two. my stepmom is borrowing the second two books from me now, but if you want to borrow the first one, it's all yours.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Katherine - Ok, you have to be the 3rd or 4th person who's told me about "Special Topics in Calamity Physics." I think there's no denying it -- I should really, seriously give up and get that one.

Kate Fatter said...

I just finished The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. I just randomly picked it up at Half Price Book on North Lamar. I couldn't put it down. The title is strange but the book is lovely. Oh and I am a 28 year old girl who is slightly intrigued with WWII and the German Occupation (if that helps tell you if you would enjoy it).

Jessica Bodine said...

Gosh, I certainly wish I could be of some help, but the last book I was sad that ended was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I am, admittedly, a Harry Potter geek. And surely it was because I felt like I had grown up with these kids in a far-off magical world and wanted to see how it all ended up.

I tend to buy from the super cheap pile at B&N or Borders, so my reads (when I dedicate myself to the task) are usually good stories: well written and enjoyable, but lacking some depth. There certainly have not been any that drive me to go out and purchase every book by the author.

Mmm, yeah. I haven't contributed at all to helping you find your next great read, but I remember seeing your panel at Mass Comm Week at Texas State, and you guys all said comments make a bloggers day!

Do you, by chance, follow any really great book blogs? I love reading, but bookstores overwhelm me with choices, and I usually end up reading 5,000 inside flaps and/or back covers and leave with nothing.

Liz said...

Great post! I can totally relate. "Kitchen Confidential" is currently waiting its turn on my nightstand, and "Eat, Pray, Love" was given up on long ago (I got through Italy and about half of India and I was donesky).
If you haven't already, you should read "Life of Pi"--one of my all time favorites. I'm also a huge historical fiction nerd, and have been loving Phillipa Gregory of late. Don't judge--all her books are based on real people and historical fact. Even the non-famous characters... and those always end up being the most fascinating.
I guess if you're looking for a memoir, and are OK with a little darkness, "The Things They Carried" would also have to be one of my favorites. Tim O'Brien does an amazing job of sharing a real insight into the Vietnam War through allegory, and it's really captivating.
OK I'm done. Thanks for another awesome post, Ms. T! And please, keep the book recommendations coming!

Amy said...

You know, I have always found Miss Manners' books to be delightful and funny. Seriously. Try her Guide to Domestic Tranquility or Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.

Stephanie Ridge said...

What, no Zebracorn stories on your nightstand? Disappointing Tolly. My thoughts:
The Help by Kathryn Stockett - LOVED. wished it didn't end.
Kitchen Confidential - will never eat brunch again. gross.
Water for Elephants - slow start. can't get into it, but reviews are good!

I'm going on Kate's rec above. Been curious about that one. Thanks kate!

Hurry up Susan Pohlman!

Camille @ Style Notes said...

Okay, I just had to jump in and say that "The Sharper Your Knife..." is still sitting on my nightstand...and I just can't get into it. So great in concept, but in reality, well, "lackluster" is the word that comes to mind. Ditto with "Eat, Pray, Love" - I mean, how much self-examination can one woman take?! Oooh, right, this comment was supposed to be about books that I would actually recommend...I'll get back to you on that. ;)

GARY! said...

Ok that's it, Im buying you a copy of I'M DOWN: A MEMOIR for Christmas. I laughed quite a bit reading this, but what I was more impressed with was the ease of which the author was able to change the tone of the book without losing the readers interest. She lures you in with a sublime sense of self deprecating humor, and before you know it the hilarity morphs into the desperate despair of a girl lost in a world with very little love. Her story, more so the way in which she chooses to tell it, seriously broke my heart and brought me to the brink of tears.

That being said, it truly is an uplifting book about a girl that just wants to be loved by her father, but always falls short of not being black enough (the irony here is that both she and her father are white) By the time I reached the end of her book I actually felt connected to her. We had become fictional best friends, and the fact that I'd never hear anymore of her stories reminded me of that feeling you get when you find out your best friend is moving away.
I never thought I'd ever choose to read a memoir, but this particular one really changed my views on nonfiction.
O Magazine even gave it a positive review, what more could YOU ask for ;)

“As she tells you at the outset of I’m Down, Mishna Wolff is all white—nothing remarkable, except that her way cool father, “Wolfy,” thinks he’s black (he’s not). What follows is a funny-melancholy coming of age memoir [in which] Mishna searches for identity in her broken home, her snobby, mostly white prep school, and—most restrictive of all—her longing heart.” –O Magazine

Megan said...

I just read "Room"--Peggy lent it to me--and it is haunting. I also read "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society" and I think you would like it, Tolly.

Just made a little book club with my friend Brooke, and we're going to read "The Reliable Wife" which is apparently a page-turning suspense novel. I'm kind of excited. You're welcome to join!

*And oh my god, my word to post this was 'stabsi'--very reminiscent of my intro on this blog, non?

Cassiday P said...

The Last Time They Met by Anita Shreve----I sobbed for about an hour when I was done. Favorite book, only 2nd to The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

penfemme said...

"The Bolter," is about a scandalous aristocratic type in the 20s. It's awesome and I'm praying someone makes a movie out of it.

Currently, I'm reading "The Seven Storey Mountain," the autobiography of Thomas Merton. It's surprisingly witty and funny. Lots about his faith and conversion to Catholicism, because it's essentially about his journey to becoming a monk, but it's seriously funny. I'm not done yet, but I'm really liking it.


huebscher said...

I'll throw in another endorsement for STiCP - blew my mind. and then I read it a second time just for kicks.

however, I thought the sharper the knife could have been ... a little sharper. I loved the kitchen / parisian vignettes and hated that the chick-ie parts ensure there's no way in hell I'll ever be able to share it with my fiancee.

Megan said...

@Kate Fatter--

Hi! I actually have a book you might be interested in--it's a memoir written by a German-American author, based on his experiences before during and after WWII.

I can send it to you! Just shoot me an email if you are interested:

Liz said...

@StephanieRidge "Water for Elephants" picks up, I promise! I am about 2/3 of the way through and really enjoying it. It doesn't hurt to have Robert Pattinson to imagine as the male lead... :)

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Katherine & @huebscher - DONE. Just ordered STiCP. I read the description, and in my virtual shopping cart it went. @Huebscher, I'm so glad I'm not the only one who feels this way about The Sharper The Knife. And such a great title, too! I hope Kathleen writes more. She is a diligent deliverer of details -- just feel she needs to loosen up a bit, ya know?

@Kate Fatter - I am also a 28 year old girl. It's a good age. So, The Guernsey Literary? You and @Megan both! Maybe that will be my next after SPiCP.

@Jessica Bodine - Welcome friend! Hey, Harry Potter is one of the healthier fixations out there, and clearly, you are in good company. BOOK BLOGS! Oh I follow several for my job. Head Butler is, without a doubt, my all-time favorite. He has a daily e-newsletter, too.

More soon, y'all.

Peggy Keefe said...

Yes, read Room. It was amazing. I also really love YA books so The Hunger Games series is top of my recommended list. I read them all twice within a month. As for grown up books, I second Stephanie's Water for Elephants rec and Liz's Philippa Gregory (love historical romance, esp the Tudors).

That Chelsea Girl™ said...

I have too many favorites for books, but as far as memoirs go, I like Tracey Gold's Room to Grow: An Appetite for Life, Lynn Barber's An Education, Douglas MacArthur's Reminiscences, and Candice Bergen's Knock Wood.
Apparently Bergen's writing a second memoir, so I'll probably read that as well.

Addie said...

Great post. I can't wait to fill up my library queue with some of the recommendations in the comments. During my recently completed maternity leave, I actually got to read books, which is a rare thing for a parent of young children. Both books I'd highly recommend. "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett and "Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen. The Franzen book is a long one, but that just means you don't have to turn that dreaded last page for a long while. (If you haven't read the "Corrections," add that to your list, too.)

And speaking of old favorites (the kind that Half Price will have plenty of), I just couldn't get enough John Irving for a few years when I was in college. From "Garp" to "Widow for One Year," I just love his style.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Liz - Ummm I totally DID go to a pre-screening of The Other Boleyn Girl with Breanna, so NO, I do not judge your Phillipa Gregory readings. And! The Things They Carried is one of my favorite novels, period, of all time. Oh my God, Tim O'Brien. I've read that book twice. I remember this one scene, where two GI's are tossing a football, playing around...and one of them steps on a land mine. And suddenly, "he" is all up in the tree, decorating the branches. You feel me?

Tim O'Brien. That is some intense shit.

@Amy - First of all, identify yourself Amy? I think you are old buddy Amy, but anyway, even if you aren't I like you already. Because I too find manners books endearing in their fussy, white-gloved approach to life. B/c in the end, their tips DO signal a care for the way other people feel.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Stephanie - Oh! You reminded me of such an important writer here, Susan Pohlman. She's one of the only in the afore-mentioned travel genre who don't annoy me, but rather, DELIGHT me -- because she takes her whole family! Group discovery, rather than self discovery. I loved how reflective she was on everyone's internal changes, and perceptive enough to swing the focus light to other characters (i.e., family members) in her story.

@Camille - Haha. :) We are of the same mindframe, kitten.

@Gary - GARY! I remember when you first emailed me about "I'm Down," and I am actually DYING to read. That one will have to follow STiCP as well. Oh God, it sounded so freaking hilarious. A little Mortified-esque.

@Megan ("Stabsi" Megan) - Idea. To hold book discussions at The Tigress...? No matter which book we are all reading? Though it would be fun for me to sync up with you two.

@Cassiday P - Ooh, thank you ma'am. Filed away in the mental Rolodex.

More to say!!! Had no idea the discussion this would spark. Will come back momentarily.

Amy said...

Sorry for being all sneaky-pants and not identifying myself more clearly.

You and I had dinner together a few months ago at Uchiko during Restaurant Week. I think, at the time, I was showing off my pics I had taken at the Pixies show a few days prior.

And honestly, one of the things I love about Judith Martin's writing is that she formats her books in a perfectly bite-sized way, which makes them great for reading straight through, browsing, or filling little snippets of time (e.g., a connecting flight from Austin to DFW). Of course, I also love her humor, learning how not to act like a total heathen (at least, not on accident-- sometimes I still do it deliberately), and the funny little illustrations...

Amy said...

Oh, and for fiction, if you want a really epic and delicious and fantastical read, you might like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susannah Clarke. The cheap and easy description is Harry Potter for grown-ups. The much more fair description is that it is a lovely, complex, and imminently readable alternate history of England, if only magic was real.

krystal said...

Not quite a memoir, but I loved Sloane Crosley's two essay books. So funny! I also liked Mary Karr's three memoirs, especially The Liar's Club.

Kay said...

Loved "Kitchen Confidential" just as much as I enjoyed "Julie & Julia" (my remarks about Julie Powell's "Cleaving" must be told over wine) because of the realism and detail. I also adore "A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table" by Molly Wizenberg. Food!! However, it is Benjamin Saenz's novels "Carry Me Like Water" and "The House of Forgetting" that I most often think of, when someone asks what they should read next. They are storylines who's plot, characters and message stick with you, years after you've closed the book.

Caleb said...

My all time favorite is 'A Prayer for Owen Meany' by John Irving. I've read it three times... yes, three times. It chronicles the relationship between a seemingly boring introvert and a very unique individual (in thought, speech, actions, and size). It's the only book I've ever read in which I can actually HEAR the main character speak when I'm reading his dialogue... and it made me cry... all three times.

Also, I've got it here, so you don't have to go to half price (or anywhere else) to find it.

Anonymous said...

I'm just finishing Les Miserables by which I mean I've finished the story but I'm going back to look up the precise meanings of the (myriad of) French and Latin phrases and other references I marked as I went through. I was too curious about what happened to the characters to look them up as I was reading.

What an epic! Religion, devotion, crime, poverty, love, politics, Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo, revolution, fate, linguistics, 150-word sentences consisting of lists after the manner of this sentence... 8-D.

Some of Hugo's lines are sheer poetry.

I've loved almost everything I've read by Henry Miller. He's known for his ribaldry but he gets mystical and poetic just as much, if not more...especially in Black Spring.

I also like to read first-person and original-source historical things (Eric Newby is a good example) which I'll mix up with recently published fiction (such as John Irving, Tom Robbins, etc.) every once in a while.

I've been on a kick of reading classics and things published about 150 years ago. The style of writing can be charming and surprisingly good, though sometimes the ideas are appalling. How different life was then! Some things have stayed the same but I get a sense of how the pace of life has changed.

I'm looking forward to Keith Richards' new autobiography and Mark Twain's new memoirs that he requested to be published 100 years after his death.

Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches by S.C. Gwynne is the next non-fiction after I work through Tunesmith by Jimmy Webb (also great, btw).

Kudos to you, Tolly, on walking away from a book that doesn't grab you. I do it often; life's too short.

Finally, I gotta plug the locals because I know you're into that, too. Though there are tons of brilliant local writers, Sarah Bird and Owen Edgerton are two who shine at the top of the heap, for me.

Your anonymous proofreader pal

bsimms8907 said...

I still think you should read My Year of Meats... I'll even let you borrow it :)

Cynthia Wenslow said...

I'm not a 28 year old girl, but I also loved loved loved "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society." Excellent book. Also told in the form of letters is, of course, the classic 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

I love Bill Bryson and have just begun "At Home: A Short History of Private Life." Fascinating and witty as always.

Half Price books on N Lamar is my go-to print store, but I also love my Kindle, especially with all the free content they have available. (Of course, it hasn't actually reduced the number of print volumes I acquire, since I am a book junkie.)

Dad said...

You MUST READ "A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail" by Bill Bryson. I've read several of his books. "The Mother Tongue" is a classic. But "A Walk..." fills you with good feelings. It isn't about a hike of a thousand miles. It's about his companion on the walk and the people they meet. And the cheating they do to say they "hiked" all the way. It's about human nature, and adventure without danger, and just meeting people on the road of life.

Lela said...

Ooooh, I can tell you what to read? Done! This summer I really got a chance to read some excellent books.

I really enjoyed An American Wife (I forget the author), but it's based on Laura Bush's life and the characterization of Dubya is GRRREAT!

Lovely Bones, movie's terrible, but I liked the book

The Help, by Karen Stockett

The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver

Shantaram, an epic mostly fiction, somewhat true story about the Bombay Mafia

Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner

The Hunger Games Trilogy, especially the first two...

My Life in France, by Julia Child

I could go on and on, but it looks like you got some good recommendations already.

Oh, if you like some kind of philosophical abstract writing, you might try South Africa's Laurens van der Post's A Story Like the Wind and the sequel, A Far Off Place.

elia // stylewaistland said...

I don't care if this had nothing to do with Austin, thank you for making me smile.

I haven't been reading lately (shame on me), but if I did I would probably read some Tolstoy because I never have and I feel like this might be somewhat blasphemous.

When I buy said Tolstoy book it will probably be at N. Lamar 1/2 Price. I think that's where most Austinites buy their reading material - or maybe that's just what I like to tell myself.

elia // stylewaistland said...

Oh - I also really loved "The World According to Garp" by John Irving. I should totally re-read that...

Anonymous said...

I'm so excited by these comments. The books mentioned are either books I've been curious about and on my "wait list" or books I've read and really enjoyed. Caleb, A Prayer for Owen Meany is one of my all-time faves too. I'm also a half-price N. Lamar junkie but even that can get pricey if you're an avid reader. I think, given that there are so many people who read your blog that are readers (with great taste in books) that we should have a giant book swap!! What do you think? A total nerd fest with alcohol and book discussions and everyone goes home feeling happy & buzzed with new reads :)
- Andrea

pinksundrops said...

Had to buy Susan Pohlman's book immediately after reading these comments. I loved Eat, Pray, Love, but am so excited there is another book out there that has to do with travel to another country and includes the whole family in the discovery. I eat up travel to another country and discover something new subjects. My two all-time favorite movies are Sabrina, the one with Julia Ormond, and Under the Tuscan Sun. Possibly because it's the closest I can get right now, and possibly because I can't wait to do it myself :) .

katherine said...

@andrea is on to something! i second the motion for a book swap. maybe we can help tolly organize? after the bleet up, of course!

Austin Eavesdropper said...

WOW. You guys are astounding? This comment section is officially solid gold. I have my reading list set for at least the next year --and maybe then some!

To my anonymous proofreader: I always, always love it when you chime in. Recently you did with the Buddhism stuff, now books. I ADORE old books, especially big, baggy Victorian novels (my MA is in Victorian British literature), and Henry Miller is, of course, a gem. How about Edith Wharton, speaking of those American society stories? House of Mirth? Divine.

@Daddy - I think you've told me about A Walk in the Woods. Do you have a copy to loan?

@Lela - Did you crawl inside my brain? Because these are all on my "must read" list. My Life in France, of course! How could I have not already?

@Andrea and @Katherine - WOW, I think you are both right about the giant book swap! Look at all of us. We'd clearly swap books (good ones) like gangbusters.

When would y'all wanna do it?

elia // stylewaistland said...

Book swap?! With booze?! And I thought there would never be a better combination of words than "clothing swap".

Brad Castro said...

I see that John Irving has been mentioned several times. I really enjoyed "A Son of the Circus" when I first read it. That was one I took my time with and thoroughly enjoyed being in that world and was a little sad to finish.

This has been a great post and conversation - I'm adding it the my Austin News and More page.

And incidentally, I sometimes engage in the opposite of what you're doing here - I try to get other people to read certain books so I don't have to, often to no avail.

Take Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun" - I've been trying to get someone to read that one for me for the last 15 years.

I don't suppose you'd consider adding it to your 2011 reading list by any chance?

Christi @Rumination Avenue said...

Two must read memoirs: Glass Castle and Oh the Glory of it All.

Austin Eavesdropper said...

Thanks @Brad! I know --I'm AMAZED at the response here. I had no idea my blog readers were such BOOK readers, too. Which delights me to *no end.*

Anyway, thank you for adding the discussion to your page, and I have to admit I'm giggling at your book suggestion (coercion?) tactics. :) Alas, I think I might have to table The Marble Faun for quite far off in the future -- I've got my hands full with stuff I ordered from Amazon, as a direct result of this discussion. That being said, why Marble Faun? Because after hearing what draws you to it ... maybe I'll change my mind.

lovestolearn said...

okay. after reading this massive comments list on books to read, and researching, adding to my "to read" book list, checking up on amazon, whew! i am so excited to see all of ya's that love to read as much as i do! i love the book swap idea, and i've always wanted to be part of a book club, alas i am not in austin *yet* so perhaps we could have an online version of a book club??

there is too much to say--kitchen confidential was a fun read because it was funny and crass and i felt like i learned a lot about restaurants behind the scenes. i went on a food memoir spree this last year, and while i often find myself drooling (molly wizenberg, Giulia Melucci) i also find myself yearning for something more literary (during gluten-free girl and others said above).

i also moved this summer, prompting a long-ish commute, and i found comical/lighter reading audiobooks to be a savior. think chelsea handler's "are you there vodka, it's me chelsea" HILARIOUS, and "eat, pray, love" although that one dragged on a little too much for my liking.

then there is the girl with the dragon tattoo trilogy. DEFINITELY worth reading. i actually saw all 3 swedish movies before reading the books, and let me tell you, watch them now! they're currently working on american versions, with english in swedish accents to boot, i'm irritated--come on americans, stop being so lazy, i know you can read subtitles. lisbeth is a captivating character, totally hot and so so smart. i am a fan, what can i say.

remember your local library is your friend!!

thanks for bringing up books, tolly. room has been on my list to read, now, back to learning more about these books!

livin wide said...

Hi there! Sandhya here from was so great to meet you today and can't wait to hang out with ya. hugs!

amy said...

Books.... aaaaaggghh. I happen to love books! Not just because I'm an English teacher and writer, but because when they're good, they're magical.

Sorry if I may have missed any prior comments on these books, but some of the greatest ones I've read in the past couple of years:

1. The Book Thief. When I learned that this book was set in Nazi Germany, told from the point of view of Death, I thought I knew what the author was up to, but he really surprised me. Poetic. Endearing. Beautiful. One of the best books i've read in the last ten years. You must read! My husband knew I was obsessed with this book, so he gave me an autographed first edition and to this day, it's one of my favorite gifts.

2. No Country for Old Men - Ok, reading Cormac Macarthy before bed isn't always a great recommendation. But his spare, exact language kills me, it's so good. Plus, who doesn't love a serial killer with his own code of ethics? If you liked the movie, then the book is a YES.

3. Kick Me - This is the memoir from the guy behind Freaks and Geeks. It's the words I always hope Oprah will say about my book one day: "hilarious and heartbreaking."

4. The Glass Castle - Sometimes I refuse to read a book just because everyone around me says "oooh, you HAVE to read this book. It's soooooo gooood." That just makes me want to NOT read it, for some reason. Probably because I want to find my own good books or something weird like that. But I wish I hadn't taken so long to read this little memoir. It's tragic and beautiful.

5. The Help - I read this book, but same as for The Glass Castle, I waited too long to read it. Living in the south, you can spot a fake accent and dialect a mile away. This girl is right on the money. Fantastic character and really original story-- debut book for the author, who I can't wait to see more from.

6. Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key - I read tons of kid lit, because I'm a middle school teacher and all. This little book is special. It's about a kid with ADD, and his narration is one of the most fabulously authentic things I've ever read. You'll love it. (Bonus: I also really recommend the audio book, which is read by the author.)

That's a lot of recommendations, but I just had to chime in! Thanks for bringing up such a wonderful topic!

Cynthia Wenslow said...

OK, kids, a BOOK SWAP? that means I'd have to actually *give away my books*! Ain't gonna happen. Between my husband and I we must have 5,000 books. (We're cool with the alcohol aspect though!)

In fact, that's the entire problem with libraries. They want you to *bring the books back*.

Another couple books that were fun: "Provenance" by Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo. About art forgery.

And "The Man Who Loved Books Too Much" by Allison Hoover Bartlett. And I swear it's not about my husband. ;)

@Tolly's Dad: Yes! I've read everything Bryson has written and loved them all. "A Walk in the Woods" is one of my favorites.

Anonymous said...

The girl with the dragon tattoo series...first one takes awhile to get into but several plots, quirky male and female protagonists, and of course a murder mystery. Takes place in Sweden so I'm learning new vocabulary, perfect for the approaching winter months because ther's three! Some wonderful family drama and unlikely romance as well. Only one disturbing scene. Makes me want to skip work to read!

Anonymous said...

I would totally help plan a book swap. Perhaps after the holidays?

I'll start brainstorming locations. This can happen, I just know it!!

Oh, 1 more book mention, Patty Smith's autobiography Just Kids was amazing and just won the national book award.

- Andrea

Jodi said...

What a great thread! I'm glad that I didn't see (in my quick perusal)Eat, Pray, Love on the list. Enough with that book!

Some of my recent favorites:

Any of Ruth Reichl's memoirs - Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples

Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet - Jamie Ford

The Yokota Officer's Club - Sarah Bird

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

Reading Lolita in Tehran - Azar Nafisi

Timbuktu - Paul Auster

Austin Eavesdropper said...

@Andrea, I am DYING to read Just Kids! I heard Patti Smith talking about it on Fresh Air, and it really does sound like a wonderful story -- her relationship with Robert Mapplethorp. Also, she was so humble and shocked just to be nominated for the award, and even more so when she actually won! I am so happy for her!

@Jodi - I KNOW, isn't it insane? How many great suggestions people have?? Including you. A fellow Ruth Reichl lover - but of course you are. Also, I really need to read The Help. You are probably the 5th person to recommend it to me. Don't suppose you have a copy? :)

Everyone still reading this thread -- post Bleet-Up (after Dec. 3), I'll see how throwing together a quick n' dirty book swap. Somewhere we can drink, where there is a lot of space. Shangri-La? Opal's on Penn Field?

katherine said...

if not a book swap, then let's start a book CLUB. i always mean well in wanting to attend one at book people, but by the looks of it, we could have ourselves quite the group already.

some possible other locations could be halcyon, spider house, somewhere on the UT campus where we could smuggle in flasks...

Jodi said...

Hey Tolly -- I'm a big borrower myself and I borrowed the Help from someone else so unfortunately don't have a copy. Reading this thread must have inspired me somehow because that night, I picked up Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and read the entire thing in one sitting. I found it engrossing, obviously. So, add that one to the list!

Jennifer Perkins - Naughty Secretary Club said...

Speaking of fish and chips Tolly - have you seen the contest Chronicle Books is running? If you blog about $500 worth of their books you and one of your readers could win said $500 books. you should do a round up and then you would have tons of new stuff to read. They have some pretty awesome looking books about cooking and stuff, right up your alley.