Wednesday, January 16, 2013


What are you reading right now? I'm what they call a voracious reader, I think. I read a lot and I always have. I will read just about anything, which isn't necessarily something to be proud of. I have a degree in English and have read many of the major classics and masterpieces of literature. I still try to read books like those from time to time. But I also have a passion for much less high-brow stuff, like crime novels and true-crime books too. I love to read cookbooks and books about various types of crafting as well. I'm not very picky. I haven't read the Hunger Games series, the Twilight series or the Fifty Shades series, though. No thank you, I have no desire to read them. Oh, I guess I'm a little bit picky then. But really just a tiny bit.

So lately I've been trying to read more novels. I used to devour novels, some light, of the "chick-lit" variety, others more serious, but then I had children. I found it more and more difficult to concentrate on a plot and character development when I wasn't sleeping at night and "reading" consisted of holding a book at arm's length while trying to nurse a baby. Novels fell by the wayside in my reading life for a few years, supplanted by magazines, for the most part; I also read a fair amount of true crime. At one point, I actually had a bargain subscription to "US" magazine. I read it faithfully and carried it in my purse. I had fallen far.

I sleep all night now, though I do still feel pretty addled a lot of the time. But I think that's because I'm getting older. Long gone are the days when, as a college student, I could plow through 300 pages of some dense 19th-century American classic in a single day. I remember reading Little Women in about a day and a half. Moby Dick got a similar whirlwind treatment. But I absorbed everything and wrote articulate, insightful papers. That was when I was young, fresh and smart.

Now, I'm trying to train my mind back to that kind of readerly skill. "Readerly" is a word I just made up. But I think it's clear what I want to do: read and comprehend and absorb. I'm disappointed at the way I have let that part of myself go. So I am making myself develop those skills again by actually taking the time to sit down and read something more involved than a home decorating or "lifestyle" magazine (though I do enjoy those and still read them sometimes need to banish them altogether).

To this end, I have just finished reading this highly-acclaimed novel, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which I borrowed from my local library.

I enjoyed this very much. I'm not very good at reviewing books but I will say that it's a worthwhile read. Maybe slightly overrated, slightly hyped, but the story is very interesting and it will keep you engaged. If you like crime novels as well as psychological thrillers, this is a good choice. The story involves a married couple with a lot of serious problems. Your marriage will probably seem perfect after you read this book.

Now that I have finished this truly creepy story, I've been reading a non-fiction book called And the Dead Shall Rise by Steve Oney. This is an excellent book, also from my local library. I have to say that our library system has an impressive true-crime/legal book collection, both of the more scholarly type, like this book, and of the more prurient variety - books by Ann Rule and the like (I've been known to enjoy some of these too).

I'm about 100 pages into this book right now (it's long, about 700 pages), but it's gripping so far. The book is about a famous legal case in Atlanta, Georgia where a Jewish man, Leo Frank, was accused of murdering Mary Phagan, a 13-year-old girl who worked for him in the pencil factory he supervised. The murder occurred in 1913, at a time when racism was rampant in the South and Jews were just one target. It's an excellent book, exhaustively researched and somewhat dense but enjoyable. It's especially interesting to me because I happen to have been born in Atlanta. Things were different by the 70's when I came along but I am intrigued to learn about a piece of my birthplace's history.

I've also been reading cookbooks, which I always did, even in the trashy-tabloid-magazine days. I received Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution cookbook for Christmas.

I had already borrowed it from the library last year and the Bear noticed how much I enjoyed reading it, so he bought me my own copy. Very thoughtful. Of course it benefits him too because my cooking can only get better. I'm not a bad cook, just not an especially imaginative cook when left to my own devices. I tend to cook the same few things over and over again. One thing I love about Jamie's cookbooks, particularly this one, is that he uses mostly very basic ingredients. There aren't many fancy, pricy components to most of his meals. I like this cookbook because it's exactly the kind of cooking I prefer to do: simple, fresh ingredients to make hearty, healthy meals that don't cost much.

I've tried a few of the recipes in this book so far. One was the applesauce you see on the page below. I did not use it as a "dinner sauce," though I'm sure it would be delicious with roast pork. I actually made it this fall as a regular applesauce for snacking. We have an apple tree in our backyard, which is lovely for so many reasons. It gives us vast quantities of small yellowish apples (probably Golden Delicious) in the fall and we struggle to use them all. We make fruit leather and applesauce throughout the fall and eat many apples straight off the tree. My small Bears really enjoy the ready-made snacks growing in their backyard; we just pluck them when somebody wants one. This applesauce was delicious. The addition of orange juice and spices gave it a lot of depth. The small Bears especially enjoyed it stirred into their morning oatmeal.

I also enjoyed Jamie's red lentil and spinach soup, seen below. I made this on a warm day toward the end of the fall, with fresh spinach, fresh gingerroot and chopped grape tomatoes. It was very good and very healthy too. If I make it again, I will add more spices and possibly more ginger because the lentils have such an earthy flavor. Otherwise, it was easy to make and we liked it.

I would really enjoy this cheesecake. Funny how the book is starting to fall open to this page already after only a few weeks...I guess I look at it a lot.

I have also been perusing a new Ina Garten cookbook, Barefoot Contessa: Foolproof. This one came from the library, where I was on the waiting list for a couple of months before it was published. I was so excited when it finally came in.

I love Ina Garten. I have this fantasy where someday I will actually BE her. Like I will age into Ina-ness somehow. I've been a fan of Ina's for years and I think she just keeps getting better. I love how her books always include ways to set the mood for any occasion, with lessons on table linens, dishes and silverware, flower-arranging, seating plans and a lot of other useful tips. Her style of cooking is a bit loftier than Jamie Oliver's, and not necessarily appropriate for my everyday meal-preparation needs, but I like to dream.

Can I just say that the amount of shellfish she uses is staggering? I have only actually eaten lobster a couple of times, and crab only a few times more than that, but wow - I can only imagine eating like this on a regular basis. I guess it would be a healthy choice of meat, though she does dress it up quite a lot. I'm sure it's easy to get and more affordable in Long Island, where she lives, than it is here in New Mexico. Of course, being filthy rich always helps. But really, every recipe in here is wonderful. I can't get enough of this book and the photos in it.

 WHAT? Now this is just torture.

Of course I notice the desserts. I'll take one of these on top of Jamie's cheesecake.

Sigh. If only my grocery budget were limitless and I could eat anything I wanted. I do love my cookbooks, though. Which ones do you enjoy reading? What other kinds of literature have you been reading lately?


  1. I think we are very alike! I'm also an English Lit graduate who used to devour novels until I had children. I am trying to do better this year. I have a copy of Gone Girl on the shelf right in front of me.

    I've just realised that the Jamie Oliver Food Revolution book was published under a different title in the UK (Jamie's Ministry of Food) and I have a copy. It's a great book. I use it a lot for roast dinners and his section on stews is good. I'd never heard of Ina Garten until about a year ago - she'd not that well known here - but I fell in love with her style of cooking, as well as her home and kitchen!

    I also love Nigella Lawson's cookery books, especially her first two "How to Eat" and "How to be a domestic goddess" - they are my go-to books, especially for baking. She writes beautifully.

    Gillian x

  2. Oooh, you'll like Gone Girl. It was addictive! Interesting about the JO cookbook, I think I noticed the alternate title when I borrowed it from the library. Ina is just wonderful, I have been a fan for a long time and I have learned so much from her. I've been using her basic roast chicken recipe for probably a decade now! Nigella is terrific too, I've read all her cookbooks (we have them in the library) and I've made a lot of her dishes. I really like how she always has a chapter on cooking for children; my kids aren't necessarily picky eaters (thankfully!) but it's always good to have a lot of tricks up your sleeve with children anyway.

  3. I'm another one who loves reading. At the moment it is Robert Goddard "Dying to Tell", not a great book but it passed the 100 pages test - just! Gone Girl will go on my "to read list". I call in the library most weeks but usually to get audio books (great when ironing, gardening etc) as I already have quite a pile waiting to be read (in fact I could probably loan some to the library!)
    Thank you for visiting my blog and your kind comment. Those hearts are seriously addictive.
    Carol xx

  4. Oh look, I'm your first follower!
    Carol xx

  5. Hi Carol! Thank you for stopping by. I love audio books too; I listen to them with my kids every day. My husband listens to them on his drive to and from work (about 30 minutes each way). I should branch out and listen to some myself, beyond the juvenile fiction I listen to with the kids!

    Thank you so much for following me! Wow, I'm honored to have you. :)

  6. Sadly I'm not much for cooking so my favorite cookbooks are by Susan Branch and I mostly just love them for all the little quotes she adds and her delightful painted borders and embellishments.

    I am however an avid fiction reader - a complete book junkie. The bookstore is my favorite place - along with the library.

  7. Hi Jenny! I haven't read Susan Branch's cookbooks before. I will have to look for one and check her out. So glad to hear you're a book kind of people! :)


Thank you for leaving a comment. It's so good to hear from you! I don't always have time to reply but I try to answer questions when I can.

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