Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Author of the Day: Ian Rankin



It took me a long time to stumble across Ian Rankin's Inspector John Rebus series, but now I am hooked. I have also started his Malcolm Fox series. Someday I'll get to his other books as well.

I first encountered Rebus when I tried to watch the television adaptation of the Rebus books staring Scottish cutie John Hannah.  But I couldn't understand a word they said!  And no subtitles for the Scottish impaired.  Then I finally figured out that the show was based on the book series and my problems were solved.

Normally, I am fiendish about reading a series in order.  But when I found the audio version of Strip Jack at my library, I decided to test it to see if I would like the series.  I did and now I am committed.

Those I have read are in red.  Those on my TBR shelf are in blue.  This is a list only of his Rebus and Fox books.

Knots and Crosses

Hide and Seek

Tooth and Nail

A Good Hanging (short stories)

Strip Jack

The Black Book

Mortal Causes

Let it Bleed

Black and Blue

The Hanging Garden

Death is Not the End

Dead Souls

Set in Darkness

The Falls

Resurrection Men

A Question of Blood

Fleshmarket Alley

The Naming of the Dead

Exit Music

The Complaints (Malcolm Fox)

The Impossible Dead (Malcolm Fox)

Standing in Another Man's Grave (Rebus and Malcolm Fox)

Saints of the Shadow Bible (Rebus and Malcolm Fox)


OTHER RANKIN FANS
If you have Rankin-related posts that you would like listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

NOTES
Last updated on August 24, 2014.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Teaser Tuesday: My Cousin Rachel



"The spell of the hushed garden had held me for a brief moment only, the scent of roses and the glow of the setting sun, but it was over now.
 
"'Who is Signor Rainaldi?' I asked."

-- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

This is the second book I am reading for the the Daphne du Maurier Challenge hosted by Chris at book-a-rama. My challenge post is here.

I've read Rebecca (reviewed here) and still have The Flight of the Falcon left to go if I am to finish the challenge by the April 19 deadline. Better get cracking.


Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




Monday, March 28, 2011

Mailbox Monday


Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at A girl and her books (fka The Printed Page), who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

I'm Booking It is hosting in March.

I got a short stack of books last week:

Potluck: Community on the Edge of Wilderness by Ana Maria Spagna (essays about "the enduring human connection to place" from OSU Press)



One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D. (because I heard Kathie England give a Time Management talk based on Maurer's principles)



The Art of Fiction by David Lodge (because I'm a Lodge fan and Michael5000 recommended it)



The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises (because my friend Cynthia recommended it)

 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

State of the Blog: Part Three, the Challenges


Spring has sprung -- not that it feels like it today -- and it is time for me to see if I've made any progress on my lists. 

This is the third of my quarterly blog assessment posts.  This one takes a look at the challenges I'm working on in 2011. The first part addressed my lists. Part Two dealt with my author lists.

NOTE: If you are working on any of these same challenges, please leave a comment here on on my main challenge post. I would like to read your main challenge pages and any reviews.


2010 CHALLENGES

There are a few challenges that overlapped from 2010. I finished two of these in January, the two "Battle of the Prizes" challenges that I hosted in 2010.  Both started on February 1, 2010 and didn't end until January 31, 2011. 

2010 Battle of the Prizes: American Version


National Book Award winners v. Pulitzer Prize winners, rules here. There are two ways to participate -- either read one book that won the Pulitzer Prize, one that won the National Book Award, and one that won both; or read two Pulizer winners and two National winners.

I've finished three of my four books in 2010:
  1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (Pulitzer)
  2. Olive Kitteridge is Elizabeth Strout (reviewed here) (Pulitzer)
  3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (reviewed here) (National)
I finished my fourth, and favorite book in 2011: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (reviewed here) (National).

2010 Battle of the Prizes: British Version


Man Booker Prize v. James Tait Black Memorial Prize, rules here.  This has the same set up -- either read one winner of each prize and a double-dipper, or read two of each.

I read two of my three in 2010:
  1. The Secret Scripture by Sebastian Barry (reviewed here) (James Tait Black)
  2. The Sea, the Sea by Iris Murdoch (reviewed here) (Booker)
I read my third book, my double dipper, in 2011: G by John Berger (reviewed here).  

Daphne du Maurier Challenge


This Challenge is hosted by Chris at book-a-rama and goes through April 19, 2011.

I signing up for the "Dreaming of Manderley" category, to read three novels. Since I am still new to du Maurier, I'll am starting with the greatest hits.

Books read so far: one: Rebecca (reviewed here)

Books I plan to read, although I don't know it I can get the third one done by the deadline:
  1. The Flight of the Falcon;
  2. My Cousin Rachel (I am reading this now)

2011 CHALLENGES

CHALLENGES HOSTED BY ROSE CITY READER

I am hosting the two Battle of the Prizes Challenges again in 2011. The challenges run from February 1, 2011 to January 31, 2012. 


2011 Battle of the Prizes: American Version


Like in past years, this challenge pits National Book Award winners against Pulitzer Prize winners. There are two ways to participate -- either read one book that won the Pulitzer Prize, one that won the National Book Award, and one that won both; or read two Pulizer winners and two National winners.

I don't know yet whether I will do the 3-book or the 4-book option, or which books I'll pick, but I have the following in mind, only one of which I have read so far: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler  (reviewed here).

Possible National Award winners:
  1. The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck
  2. Them by Joyce Carol Oates
  3. Morte d'Urban by J.F. Powers
Other Possible Pulitzer winners:

  1. One of Ours by Willa Cather
  2. Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis

2011 Battle of the Prizes: British Version


Just as in 2010, this challenge is to read books that won the Man Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize.  This has the same set up -- either read one winner of each prize and a double-dipper, or read two of each.

I will have to go with the 4-book option, because I've read all three of the double-dippers. So far, I've read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (reviewed here).

Other possible Booker picks are:

  1. How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman 
  2. Shindler's List by Thomas Keneally
Possible James Tait Black picks are:
  1. Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd
  2. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

2011 CHALLENGES I AM PARTICIPATING IN

The challenge titles link to my main challenge posts.

Foodie's Reading Challenge



Margot at Joyfully Retired is hosting a challenge for 2011 that I am very excited about: The Foodie's Reading Challenge!
I signed up at the "Bon Vivant" level to read four to six books.  My plan is to read books that are already on my TBR shelves.

So far, I've read The Food of France by Waverley Root (reviewed here).

Others in the running include (in no particular order):
And it might be a good idea to include this one:

French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating For Pleasure by Mireille Guiliano


Chunkster Reading Challenge 



Wendy at caribousmom is hosting this fun challenge again this year.  The challenge sign-up post is here.

Since I didn't reach my chunkster goal in 2010, I am scaling down a bit in 2011 and signing up for the "Chubby Chunkster" level this year.  That means reading four books over 450 pages long.

I overlapped with the Foodie challenge because The Food of France by Waverley Root (reviewed here), is quite the Chunkster.

The only other book I am currently planning on is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  That's my "big book" for 2011.  I don't know which others will strike my fancy.

The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge


The Vintage Mystery Reading Challenge is hosted by My Reader's Block.  The goal is to read mysteries written before 1960.  I signed up at the "In a Murderous Mood" level with the goal of reading four to six books, by at least two different authors, by the end of the year.
 
So far, I have read three, but haven't reviewed any of them yet:
Next up is Clouds of Witness by Dorothy L. Sayers.



Saturday, March 26, 2011

State of the Blog: Part Two, the Authors

Spring has sprung and it is time for me to see what kind of progress I've made on my lists.  There's no point in being a compulsive "list" reader if you don't play with the lists.

This is the second of my quarterly blog assessment posts.  This one takes a look at my author lists over in the right-hand column. The first part addressed my lists. Part Three will deal with the challenges I joined this year.

NOTE: If you are systematically reading the books of any of these authors, please leave a comment here or on the post for the author's list (click on the title below or in the right-hand column) and leave a link to any related post. I will add the links on the author's list post. 

Below is the list of books by my favorite authors that I have read so far in 2011.  Not many, but it's still early days.

Kate Atkinson
Started Early, Took My Dog (I am reading this now, but will finish it today)

Dick Francis
10 Lb. Penalty
Bolt

P. D. James
A Mind to Murder

Elinor Lipman
Then She Found Me (I am about halfway through this one now)

Anne Tyler
Breathing Lessons (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, American Version challenge)

John Updike
Beck: A Book (reviewed here)

P. G. Wodehouse
The Indiscretions of Archie

Friday, March 25, 2011

Opening Sentence of the Day: One Small Step Can Change Your Life



"Japanese corporations have long used the gentle technique of kaizen to achieve their business goals and maintain excellence."

-- One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way by Robert Maurer, Ph.D.

I bought this book after hearing Kathie England give a Time Management talk based on Maurer's principles. 

Since my first "small step" is to leave the house by 8:30 every morning, I've got to bust a move.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

State of the Blog: Part One, the Lists


Spring has sprung and it is time for me to check in and see what kind of progress I've made on my lists.  There's no point in being a compulsive "list" reader if you don't play with the lists on occasion.

This is the first of my quarterly blog assessment posts.  This first part addresses the book lists. Part Two, coming soon, will take a look at the author lists.  Part Three will deal with the challenges I joined this year.

My List of Lists is over in the right-side column. These are Prize Winners, Must Reads, and other lists of books I have read or intend to read for some reason or another. Also in the right-side column is a list of my favorite authors. I add to both lists from time to time.

NOTE: If you are working on any of these lists, please leave a comment here or on the post for the list (click on the title below or in the right-hand column) and leave a link to any related post. I will add the links on the list post. 

I am simplifying the format of this post from the way I used to do it.  Now, all that is included below are the lists themselves and any books I have read this year that are on those lists. 

THE LISTS



Books read in 2011: none so far.


Books read in 2011: none so far.


This list is from 99 Novels: The Best in English Since 1939 by Anthony Burgess, which I finally read this year. My review is here

Books read in 2011:
  1. George Passant, the first volume of C. P. Snow’s 11-volume Strangers and Brothers series (reviewed here); and
  2. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.


Books read in 2011: none so far.


Books read in 2011: one, Honolulu by Alan Brennert.


Books read in 2011: one, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.


Books read in 2011: one, Classic Spanish Cooking: Recipes for Mastering the Spanish Kitchen by Elisabeth Luard (reviewed here)


Books read in 2011: none so far.


Books read in 2011: one, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.


Books read in 2011: none so far. But I think Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan (reviewed here) should have won.


Books read in 2011: one, Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.


Books read in 2011: one, The Food of France by Waverley Root (reviewed here).


    Books read in 2011:
    1. One City's Wilderness by Marcy Cottrell Houle (reviewed here); and
    2. Maps and Shadows by Krysia Jopek (reviewed here).


    Books read in 2011: one, G by John Berger (reviewed here; read for my 2010 Battle of the Prizes, British Version challenge).

    LT EARLY REVIEWERS

    Books read in 2011: one, Shipwrecks, Monsters, and Mysteries of the Great Lakes by Ed Butts (reviewed here).



    Books read in 2011:
    1. G by John Berger (reviewed here; read for my 2010 Battle of the Prizes, British Version challenge);
    2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version challenge)


    Books read in 2011: none so far.



    Books read in 2011: zero (finished this list a couple of years ago).



    Books read in 2011:one, Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon (reviewed here; read for my 2010 Battle of the Prizes, American Version challenge).


    Books read in 2011:one, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, British Version challenge).


    Books read in 2011: none so far.


    Books read in 2011:
    1.  The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James; and
    2.  Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.


    Books read in 2011: none so far.


    Books read in 2011: none so far.

    Books read in 2011: none so far.


    Books read in 2011: one, Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler (reviewed here; read for my 2011 Battle of the Prizes, American Version challenge)


      Books read in 2011: one, The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James.


      Books read in 2011: none so far. Who knows if the list will change this year.


      This is a new list that I just created in February.

      Books read in 2011: Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon.



      Books read in 2011: none so far.

      Wednesday, March 23, 2011

      My Third Blogiversary!


      This calls for a celebration. I think I'll kick back this afternoon and read a couple of the umpteen books I have going right now. Kate Atkinson is calling me . . .

      Opening Sentence of the Day: My Cousin Rachel



      "They used to hang men at Four turnings in the old days."

      -- My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier.

      Well, that certainly sets a tone.

      This is the second book I am reading for the the Daphne du Maurier Challenge hosted by Chris at book-a-rama. My challenge post is here.

      I've read Rebecca (reviewed here) and still have The Flight of the Falcon left to go if I am to finish the challenge by the April 19 deadline. Better get cracking.



      Tuesday, March 22, 2011

      Teaser Tuesday: Started Early, Took My Dog



      "The dog looked at him as if it was interested in what he was saying.  Jackson suspected that he was assigning emotions to the dog that is wasn't actually experiencing."

      -- Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson. I never want this book to end, I love it so much. I want to marry it.


      Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.





      Monday, March 21, 2011

      Mailbox Monday



      Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

      I'm Booking It is hosting in March.

      A lot of books came into my house last week. One I won in a giveaway on Knitting and Sundries -- Thanks Julie!

      Moonlight Mile by Dennis Lehane



      I found several at Booktique in Lake Oswego, one of my favorite Friends of the Library book stores:

      The Black Book by Ian Rankin (because I have only just now "discovered" his John Rebus series and am obsessed)



      The Private Patient by P. D. James (because I have decided to tackle the whole Adam Dalgliesh series)



      Snobs by Julian Fellows (because it looks like guilty pleasure)



      The Hour: A Cocktail Manifesto by Bernard DeVoto (an irresistible reprint from Tin House Books)



      And I picked up a few from the paperback swap shelf at the University Club when I was there for my partner meeting (small compensation for a LONG meeting).  I took books only, so will have to leave books when I am back for our next meeting.

      Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin (see above re: new John Rebus obsession)



      Venetian Mask by Mickey Friedman (to add to my list of Venice books)



      The Bookman's Promise by John Dunning (it looks interesting and I have a weakness for immaculate pocket paperbacks)



      Sunday, March 20, 2011

      Review: Bad Things Happen



      When "the man who calls himself David Loogen" moves to Ann Arbor and takes a job editing stories for a murder mystery magazine, things start to get very complicated very quickly. Just as the magazine's publisher said of the stories they printed: "Plans go wrong; bad things happen; people die."

      Bad Things Happen is Harry Dolan's neo-noir debut and a real treat for fans of literary mysteries. In this case, "literary" means more than good writing, droll dialog, and a sophisticated plot. The multiple victims and a dozen or so suspects all write for or are otherwise involved with Grey Streets magazine. Many have written mystery novels, the plots of which get dragged in as possible clues, along with guidance from Raymond Chandler, Alfred Hitchcock, and other mystery story icons.

      Things get a little tangled up as Dolan explores every possible combination of who dun it. And the solution of one of the mysterious deaths remains unsettled in the end – perhaps as homage to Chandler's The Big Sleep, which suffers from the same glitch. But these minor drawbacks do not detract from this smart, stylish novel. More, please.



      OTHER REVIEWS

      (If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.)

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Opening Sentence of the Day: The Marvelous Album of Madame B



      "Opening this album is like entering another world."

      -- The Marvelous Album of Madame B: Being the Handiwork of a Victorian Lady of Considerable Talent by Elizabeth Siegel.

      This is an incredible book I got when I saw the exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago a couple of years ago.  The exhibit was called Playing with Pictures: The Art of Victorian Photocollage and featured "Madame B's" scrapbook.  Super cool.

      I decided to read the book to inspire my own scrapbook. I'm about 11 years behind in my scrapbooking, but I'll catch up someday.

      Here is an example of one of her scrapbook pages:



      Wednesday, March 16, 2011

      Opening Sentence of the Day: Started Early, Took My Dog



      "Leeds: 'Motorway City of the Seventies.'"

      -- Started Early, Took My Dog by Kate Atkinson. The first chapter is a flashback to 1975.

      This is the fourth and latest in Atkinson's Jackson Brodie mystery series.  These are amazing books.  They are literary novels with a mystery woven in -- not the other way around. 

      I can't wait to spend this rainy weekend with this book.

      Here is a list of all of Kate Atkinson's books. The last four on the list are the Jackson Brodie series. 

      Tuesday, March 15, 2011

      Teaser Tuesday



      Mid-March, the swales and foothills
      neither brown nor green, is time
      to walk an abandoned railroad bed
      above the Klickitat.
      Spring comes up early here, yellow bells,
      desert parsley, grass widow, saxifrage.

      -- from "Above the Klickitat," in Because You Might Not Remember by Don Colburn.
       
      I have really been enjoying this little "chapbook" of poems by Don Colburn. This one caught my fancy today because it is mid-March and I am planning a daytrip to Lyle, Washington wineries this weekend.  The Klickitat River joins the Columbia at Lyle.  You can even see on the winery map the railroad bed mentioned in the poem.

      Don Colburn and another Portland poet, Oz Hopkins Koglin, will be reading this evening (7:00 p.m.) at Broadway Books (1714 N.E. Broadway).  What a treat!


      Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




      Monday, March 14, 2011

      Mailbox Monday



      Thanks for joining me for Mailbox Monday! MM was created by Marcia at The Printed Page, who graciously hosted it for a long, long time, before turning it into a touring meme (details here).

      I'm Booking It is hosting in March.

      The one book I got last week was one I really wanted, so I am quite excited. It is from the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program. I must be making some progress on that list.



      One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming.  This is the latest in her series featuring Clare Fergusson and Russ Van Alstyn. It is one of my very favorite mystery series and I have read all the others, so I am looking forward to this one right away. 

      Also last week I got -- but not for myself -- a Kindle.  It is for my stepdaughter's birthday present.  She's in veterinary school and will be spending the summer in Africa, teaching chicken farming or goat husbandry or something along those lines. She asked for the Kindle because she won't be able to haul enough book books there with her.



      Any thoughts on this new 3G Kindle compared to the old one?Does she need to get a case for it, like with an iPod?

      And any suggestions for the best free eBooks? I'd like to put a couple of books on there for her, but I blew the birthday budget with the gadget itself.

      Sunday, March 13, 2011

      Opening Sentence of the Day: The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest



      "An estimated 600 women served during the American Civil War."

      -- The Girl Who Kicked a Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson.

      This is the third volume of Larsson's "Millennium Trilogy," after the blockbuster Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (reviewed here) and the better Girl Who Played With Fire.

      This one is entertaining enough, but has more filler than the first two.  There is a lot of pedantic explaining of Swedish bureaucracy and, in one passage that verged on parody, the paperwork involved in installing a home security alarm.  I'm 70% of the way through it and it hasn't yet gripped me like the first two.

      I am late to post an opening sentence, because I just now switched from the audiobook to the book book when I found that I had messed up loading one of the cds from the library to my iPod. I don't usually post an opening sentence for audiobooks, but now that I have the book in my hands, I can copy the words.

      Friday, March 11, 2011

      Opening Sentence of the Day: Wise Blood



      "Hazel Motes sat at a forward angle on the green plush train seat, looking one minute at the window as if he might want to jump out of it, and the next down the aisle at the other end of the car."

      -- Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.

      I swung by the library the other day and found several new audiobooks, including this classic that I have never read. It shows up on several of my lists: Anthony Burgess's Best 99 Novels, Erica Jong's Top 100 20th Century Novels by Women, and The Observer's 100 Greatest Novels of All Times.

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Literary Blog Hop: How Funny!

      Literary Blog Hop

      Every other Thursday, The Blue Bookcase hosts a "Literary Blog Hop" for blogs "that primarily feature reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion." 

      I'm a week late for the latest Hop because I missed the post last week while traveling for work. Drat! I hate it when work interferes with my hobbies!

      But I am going to jump on this bandwagon even if I am a week late, because they used my question. Each week, in addition to hopping around and visiting some terrific book blogs, participants answer a bookish question. My question was:

      Can literature be funny? What is your favorite humorous literary book?

      Lucia answered for the BB crew and made a good case for Pride and Prejudice.  Good choice.  P&P is definitely witty, even if it isn't laugh out loud funny.

      I definitely think that good literature can be funny.  Even early on, novels could be humorous. Tristram Shandy, for example, is hilarious -- just where was Uncle Toby wounded in the war?

      There are plenty of good writers who leaven their literature with humor, such as Charles Dickens, who often had funny people doing and saying funny things.  David Lodge and Jim Harrison are contemporary examples.  They rely less on the verbal sight gags of Dickens, and more on characters saying and thinking funny things. 

      Then there are authors who make good literature out of humor.  P. G. Wodehouse was the king of this.  His plots were minimal and repetitive.  He used the same characters over and over -- even if they had different names, they were recycled from other books.  But no one can be so clever and so nimble with words without writing well.  He was so good at what he did that he made it look easy, but it is the most difficult writing there is.

      If I had to pick one favorite funny book -- and I do, since I wrote the question -- it would be Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.  He is known for the humor in his books, but Lucky Jim is his best known and most popular.  It is the book that made me realize that literature could make you laugh.  I still get a chuckle out of his description of a hangover feeling like a large raw egg yolk rolling around inside his head.


      There's my answer.  Better late than never.  Now I'll go hop around and see what other examples people came up with.  And please leave suggestions in comments.

       

      Wednesday, March 9, 2011

      Review of the Day: The Food of France




      The Food of France, Waverley Root's encyclopedic tome, deserves its status as a culinary classic. First published in 1958, updated by the author in 1966, and still in print, the book remains the definitive treatise in English on French cuisine.

      The book is best known for its structure. Root famously organized the book based on the type of fat predominantly used in the cooking of certain sections of France. The "Domain of Butter" is the largest area, covering a big swath across the middle of the country and points beyond, including Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the western mountains. The "Domain of Fat" includes Alsace-Lorraine, Languedoc, and other regions that use lard (primarily pork and goose fat). Olive oil dominates the cooking in Provence and the rest if the "Domain of Oil." The only section of the country that does not fit Root's general scheme is the Pyrenees region, including Gascony and the Basque country, where people cook with butter, lard, and olive oil – sometimes combining two or even all three in the same dish.

      Within each general category, Root breaks down the cuisine by region. Each chapter follows the same format, with Root describing the geography and climate of the area; its history, including its earliest settlers, rulers, architecture, and incorporation into France; its agriculture production; its culinary specialties; and, finally, its wine or other beverages.

      The most absorbing parts of the book are about the history of each region. Root goes back sometimes to the earliest history, providing interesting tidbits such as where the Greeks planted wine grapes, or how Brittany shares a common language with Wales because they both have a Celtic background, or where to find the dividing line between Gothic and Romanesque architecture. He also enjoys linguistic history, offering useful explanations for how certain words evolved that clear up confusion about several place names and culinary terms.

      When it comes to describing the food of each region, Root focuses on regional cuisine bourgeoise, or "home cooking," rather than heute cuisine, which he derides as "international hotel and restaurant cooking [that] appears all over the world on menus whose French is usually as bad an imitation of the real thing as the cooking is likely to be." He works from the angle that all cooking, like politics, is local, and focuses mostly on rustic dishes made from what can be grown, grazed, hunted, or fished from the immediate area.

      Compared to the lively historical and linguistic anecdotes, the descriptions of the food grow a little stale by the end of this long book. The value of the book is its thoroughness. Unfortunately, this means reading about many regional "specialties" that are very similar to the "specialties" of neighboring regions. After the first 300 pages or so (or even earlier for the less patient reader), whether a region serves its cabbage and mutton stew in one dish, or serves the meat separately, is not an enthralling distinction.

      Another minor letdown – and one that runs contrary to complaints about the length of the book – is that Root often gives no description of the foods he lists. He may state that such-and-such region makes a very good cheese, or is known for its sausages, or makes a particular type of wine, but says nothing about the characteristics of these products. For readers used over-the-top, mouthwatering descriptions of yummy delicacies, such scanty descriptions are not satisfying.

      Despite these small disappointments, food lovers will still love The Food of France. It is a landmark in culinary writing and worthy of the reverence it inspires.


      OTHER REVIEWS

      If you would like your review of this book listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.

      NOTES

      This is on my French Connections list and is the first book I am reading for the Foodie's Reading Challenge. It will also count as one of my Chunkster Challenge books, coming in at exactly 450 pages, plus an introduction.

      Tuesday, March 8, 2011

      Teaser Tuesday: Honolulu



      "A soldier took us to the Honolulu police station at the corner of Merchant Street and Bethel Avenue, along with most of the other displaced women of Iwilei.  Many were barely clothed, railing about the ransacking of their homes and the theft of all their worldly goods."

      -- Honolulu by Alan Brennert. This is for my March Book Club
       
      I am only about halfway through and enjoying it a lot. It's quite a story. 


      Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by Should Be Reading, where you can find the official rules for this weekly event.




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