Bookish – In Which I Offer Mini Reviews for Many Books

Nobody reads my book reviews anyway, so I figure it’s totally okay if I cheat and pile a bunch into one post. I just want a place to record everything I’ve read because otherwise I’ll pick up the same title five years from now and read it again, and seriously, there are too many books to read, I’m not reading something twice unless it changes my life in some way.

So here’s what I’ve been reading lately…

Crow Winter
Karen McBride
This novel about a young Anishinaabe woman returning to her family home after the death of her father reads more like a young adult novel with traditional characters from the spirit world coming to life to help her come to terms with her loss and save her community. Beautiful artwork throughout by the author. A good entry point for readers of colonial descent to learn more about First Nations culture.

Continue reading “Bookish – In Which I Offer Mini Reviews for Many Books”

Book Review — wow, no thank you.

wow, no thank you
Samantha Irby

Is it possible to make a career out of blogging? More specifically is it possible to make a career out of blogging about your digestive issues? Comedic writer Samantha Irby has not only done that but has translated her hilarious blog Bitches Gotta Eat to three books of essays (plus an ebook about New Year resolutions), as well as writing gigs for television shows such as Shrill.

Irby’s latest book wow, no thank you. continues on the themes in her previous titles, with fun new content as she writes about her life in Kalamazoo, Michigan where she is now a married homeowner with two stepkids. The essay Detachment Parenting talks about how she should not be a role model for kids, and A Guide to Simple Home Repairs speaks for every one of us who were never taught how to be handy when faced with issues such as “what do gutters do” or “what is that damp looking shit on the ceiling.” I was less enthralled with Late-1900s Time Capsule which details every song Irby would put on a mixtape and why. Not because Irby isn’t funny and earnest as she explains her selections, but because if her choices are not your particular groove, it probably won’t resonate. Continue reading “Book Review — wow, no thank you.”

Book Review — Shrewed

Elizabeth Renzetti

Aw dudes, I suck so much at keeping my 2018 reading list up to date, mostly because it’s all food books and cookbooks (not all of them good, either!), but I want to mention this book somewhere that people see it (because while I seldom update here, this blog still gets a pile o’ hits every day… who are you people?!).

Anyway, Shrewed by Elizabeth Renzetti is a delightful collection of thoughtful, provocative essays on feminism that addresses real issues without wandering into the realm of self-pity or “social justice warrior” territory. “You’ll Pay For Those Breasts, or The Cost of Being a Lady” lays out the financial burden women face trying to meet the expectations of what society deems “attractive” and how it fucks with our heads. In an essay in the form of a letter to her daughter, Renzetti casts (warranted) aspersions on weddings and the whole wedding industry, and “Four Lions” recounts interviews Renzetti did with Germaine Greer, P. D. James, Hilary Mantel, and Setsuko Thurlow.

This is a great collection that speaks to women’s fear, frustration and anxiety. Recommended.

Book Review — The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat
edited by Caroline M. Grant and Lisa Catherine Harper
Roost Books, 2013

How do you decide which books to read? I mean, how much research about the book do you do beforehand? Do you read author profiles? Scour Goodreads for reviews?

I picked up The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage because it is a collection of food-themed essays about food and family. Which is totally something that I love. The works of various writers (mostly food writers but a few more traditional journalists, novelists, and screenwriters) are divided into three sections: food, family and “how we learn to eat”. The first two sections touch on the topics of family recipes, an obsession with candy, and trying to find local, seasonal food in a place that should have plenty of it but doesn’t. However the third section is all about children, specifically kids learning to like different foods… learning to eat, as it were.

There is a logical step for the two editors who both specialize in writing about parenting issues (Grant and Harper met while working on a site called Literary Mama and ran a site together called Learning to Eat). And if you have kids, perhaps it’s a reasonable section to include in a book of essays (mostly) about family food traditions. For the unsuspecting child-free reader, however, especially one who doesn’t really care if your kid likes foie gras or not, it’s a bit of a turn off. I don’t want to listen to people talk about their kids’ eating habits in real life, and I really don’t want to read about them either.

So to be totally honest, I only read the first two sections. And in all fairness, those sections were full of great, honest, witty, intriguing essays that offered both familiar and unique perspectives of food and eating, both within and outside of the family dynamic. Lobster Lessons by Alexsandra Crapanzano tells the story of honouring a great-aunt and her food traditions while also getting her to try new things. Kosher. Or Not by Barbara Rushkoff explains the anxiety most non-Orthodox Jews feel when they don’t keep kosher. Chris Malcomb’s essay about his Italian restaurant-owning family and the evolution of their red sauce is sharp and poignant. And Lisa McNamara’s story about learning to bake pies to catch a husband calls up mid-century mores and how they play out in a modern context.

Readers with kids might well enjoy the third section as relatable and representative of their own experiences. This bit really wasn’t for me, however, so I’ll offer no critique of these works. YMMV as we say on the internet.

A nice touch throughout the collection is that every essay is accompanied by a related recipe which is fun and charming. Sadly the essay about red sauce does not include the recipe in question but one for eggplant Parmesan. Some things have to remain a family secret.