Blood, Bones & Butter


Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef Gabriel Hamilton

This is an interesting memoir about cooking and life by Gabriel Hamilton.  She begins with her unorthodox childhood.  First, her strong memories of her mother and her cooking, then later, after her parents divorced: her own childhood explorations in cooking.  Then she takes on an autobiographical trip through all of the cooking she did and finally to Italy, her husband’s home and how her only way of communicating with her mother-in-law is through cooking.  Then finally, when she takes over her mother-in-law’s kitchen, she sees the full circle between her mother and her motherhood.

We the animals


We the Animals: A novel is a series of remembrances of Justin Torres’ childhood and young adulthood.  It begins with the chaos of childhood.  I enjoyed the ruckus ride of a group of brothers all tangled up in chaos in a working class, biracial family.  There were some diversions into infidelity and how adult depression affects kids.

However, the book turns toward the end about the experience of the author’s emerging sexuality.  At first this emerges as his feelings of difference which he mainly brings up as grades.  Then, finally he deals with his coming out as a gay man.

In some ways this didn’t work for me.  I felt like it was a series of memories not completely connected.  Yet, I liked the first part.  He describes his family and the chaos of children perfectly.  As often happens with people who are still alive, the book didn’t come to a conclusion in a neat way.  His clear strong feelings didn’t come through in his chapter about him coming out, which makes me believe it is too recent or too raw for him to clearly write about.

This Life is in your hands


I have an interest in the farming movement, the hippie return to the land movement. I saw this autobiography, This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.) at Mother Earth magazine. Melissa Coleman’s parents, Eliot and Sue, were some of the pioneers in this movement.  They moved to a small piece of land in Maine and built their farm from nothing. Yet, this is Ms. Coleman’s autobiography of this time, told first from her perspective and then adding to her memories with talking to others.  She was frustrated with her father’s drive to make the farm succeed, at, what she believes, the expense of his family.  It is interesting to read how even though she loves her parents, and she tries to understand them, she does hold them in a bit of judgement for her unconventional childhood.  It seems a reoccurring theme with the books I read lately, of the parent’s selfish dream overtaking the child’s need for a childhood.

This Life Is in Your Hands: One Dream, Sixty Acres, and a Family’s Heartbreak (P.S.)

The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch

Thomas Thwaites chose an interesting thesis project: build an industrial object on your own from absolute start to finish.  He attempts this with sort of perverse success and good humour. He deconstructs an inexpensive toaster and then sets up his parameters. He travels to several places on a student’s budget for raw materials and resources several different people to gain ideas on how to manufacture a single toaster. While he is semi-successful in that he has semi-functional toaster, he is too afraid by its odd construction to turn it on.

The book is written in the same sort of voice as A.J. Jacobs. Mr. Thwaites struggles to sustain the voice through the whole book, even though the book is rather short.  The end seems rushed, possibly because he had a deadline for his thesis.

The Toaster Project: Or a Heroic Attempt to Build a Simple Electric Appliance from Scratch by Thomas Thwaites

waiting for daisy


Waiting for Daisy: A Tale of Two Continents, Three Religions, Five Infertility Doctors, an Oscar, an Atomic Bomb, a Rom

In this book, Peggy Orenstein documents her rocky path to parenthood.   Unlike many of us, who had a child by doing less, i.e. stop actively trying to not having a child, her path was much harder because she struggled with a long period of infertility.  As a journalist, she is very detailed about the ordeal she went through. She is also very honest about her obsessive feelings during that time, how it nearly ruined her marriage and had health consequences.  She talks about how some doctors had slightly dishonest ways of presenting information to her and her husband, and the common difficulties they had with adoption.  She also very frankly deals with her own feelings of guilt that she didn’t start the child making process earlier when she was more fertile.  It is a wonderful story, very well written and personal.
Waiting for Daisy, Peggy Orenstein, Bloomsbury 2007

Trip of the tongue


I like Elizabeth Little have a love of languages.  In Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages , the author travels around the United States investigating different languages.  We all know about Spanish and perhaps we also know about little eddies of different languages in different parts of the country but this book takes us on a deeper tour.  This is by no means an exhaustive exploration of languages in United States, instead it is a tourist’s view of language.  I particularly enjoyed the chapter about Native American language.  Although sad, it was interesting, and she illustrates how different the languages and the cultures were when European settlers interacted with Natives.  She also talks about Basque in American culture, one language that is unique in the world because linguists still can’t find where exactly it fits in the language family tree.  In America, its influence is small but surprising.

This book reminded me a great deal of Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell.  Both books layer ideas on the landscape of the United States.  Elizabeth Little adds the layer of language and people, while Sarah Vowell lays history on the landscape.  Then both books add a layer personal experience and self depreciating humor on top.  Both books are very fun to read and full of interesting facts.

Trip of the Tongue: Cross-Country Travels in Search of America’s Languages Elizabeth Little, 2012 Bloomsbury

Things I Learned from Knitting


Now, I am not sure if I read to many of her books in a row, but Things I Learned From Knitting: …whether I wanted to or not was not my favorite of Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s books that I had read so far.  There are a few things that are recycled from the other books (or vice versus). This is a super easy read, but not very much depth.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee