Showing posts from November, 2011

New York Times Notable Books of 2011

Here is the link to the books from 2011 that the Times determined to be most worthy of your attention.

I've read only two books on the list, In the Garden of Beasts and Blood, Butter and Bones.  I've been slacking off, obviously.  In any event, Blood, Butter and Bones is an autobiography by chef Gabrielle Hamilton of Prune Restaurant in New York.   Of the two, I preferred Beasts to Blood.

Photo:  Lake Monona Abstract.  Monona, WI.

Happy Thanksgiving

The recipe for happiness begins simply:  Start with a good measure of gratitude for what we have.
I am thankful for all of you!  Happy Thanksgiving.

A Crazy Ride Through the Mississippi Delta: Ranchero by Rick Gavin.

Folks, it's Wednesday.  Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the U.S., and for many of us it is the first day of a four-day weekend.  Set aside thoughts of  turkey and shopping right now and ask yourself an important question:  Do you have a good book to read?

A good book is essential for long weekends.  It's a place to retreat to, a place to hide in, a place to happily pass the time while waiting for the next activity to begin.  If you need something to read and would like something breezy and entertaining, then pick-up or download a copy of  Ranchero by Rick Gavin.

Ranchero is set in the Mississippi Delta, which has been called "the most Southern place on Earth."   The protagonist, Nick Reid, is a new resident of the area.  He previously worked as a police officer all over the mid-South (Nick's key rules: "Never tangle with an irate teenage girl if you can help it at all; and thumbs might be opposable, but they weren't meant to get bent back.").  Now he is …
Blue truck in the high desert. Sonoita, Arizona

A Good Mystery From Italy: "Death in August" by Marco Vichi.

Death in August is the first in a series of books written by Marco Vichi that feature Inspector Franco Bordelli.   This very enjoyable book is a gentle police procedural, almost - but not quite - a cozy mystery.

Death in August is set in Florence, Italy.  It is the summer of 1963, and the weather is hot, humid and miserable.  Everyone has left town for vacation; that is, every one except Inspector Bordelli.  The 50-ish, single, World War II vet is sweating it out in the city.  It's calm at police headquarters until one evening a wealthy, elderly woman is found dead in her home.  Bordelli observes the scene, concludes the death is suspicious, and the investigation begins.

Bordelli's investigation is not a heart pumping thriller or CSI routine.  He interviews people and works the case with his friend the coroner and his protege, Piras.  But the bulk of the book is really about Bordelli himself, a likable, fair, and often funny man who has an eclectic set of friends and relatives…

A Wary Turkey; And Rightly So!

It's hard to believe it, but Thanksgiving is next week.

Veterans Day

Today's post was first published on November 11, 2008.

Today is Veterans Day, a day specifically set aside to honor all those who have served in our military and sacrificed for the common good of our country.

Veterans Day began in 1919 as, of course, a commemoration of Armistice Day, the end of World War I - "the war to end all wars." The horrors of World War I have been expressed in some amazing, and well-known, literature. For example, Dalton Trumbo's 1939 classic Johnny Got His Gun. It is the story of a World War I soldier who awakens in the hospital with his mind intact, but his body destroyed, no arms, legs or even a face. Written as an anti-war piece, it is chilling and absorbing.

A famous poem from a soldier of World War I was written by a physician, Canadian Lt. Col. John McCrae. His poem, In Flanders Fields, was one of my favorite poems to read when I was a kid, browsing through my mother's books of poetry:

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the pop…

Music We Like: "An Evening in the Village: The Music of Bela Bartok" by Jake Schepps and the Expedition Quartet.

Open the door to new music.
Musician Jake Schepps plays banjo.  Hungarian composer Bela Bartok (1881 - 1945) studied, collected and arranged folk music.  Bartok also wrote music with folk themes. In An Evening in the Village:  The Music of Bela Bartok, Schepps transcribes and adapts Bartok compositions for performance with a bluegrass lineup.

The recording is not a country music version of Bartok's work.  It is instead a selective number of Bartok's compositions played by banjo, violin, mandolin, guitar, and bass  - plus a cello.  (Don't you love the cello?  I do.)  There is a bluegrass vibe which sometimes bubbles, sometimes simmers, and sometimes is quiet.  The result of this translation and reinterpretation is warm and wonderful music.  
In fact, if you are assembling a holiday shopping list, put at the top of it An Evening in the Village:  The Music of Bela Bartok.  You will enjoy listening to it on snowy evenings throughout the winter. 

Shop Amazon's Holiday Music S…

Michael Pollan Interviewed on The Corbert Report About His New Book "Food Rules".

Amy's Food Rule No 87:  
Apple: Good.  
Apple Pie:  Better.  
Apple Pie  a La Mode:  Best.
Just in time for the eating season - that is, I mean the holiday season - author Michael Pollan has a new book available called Food Rules:  An Eater's Manual.  Pollan is the author of the best sellers In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma and previously distilled the essence of eating into seven words:  Eat food.  Not too much.  Mostly plants.  Apparently we, the eaters of America, need more than this to drive the point home.  To that end, Pollan recently appeared on the Colbert Report  to talk about the new book.

During the interview, Pollan discusses the fact that (in the U.S. anyway) people eat for reasons other than hunger.  He says if you are hungry enough to want to eat an apple, then you actually are hungry.  And if you actually are hungry, eat an apple!

This is good advise and I'm going to check out Food Rules.  Still, rules must have exceptions.  I won't be f…

Wilderness Books: Stay Inside and Enjoy the Great Outdoors.

It's fall, a season of many rituals.  For some folks, the fall hunting seasons are important annual events:  getting together with family and friends and heading out into the wilderness.

For those of us unable to get out into the wild or looking for a good read in front of the fire after a day in the woods, Philip Connors at The Guardian assembled a list of his top ten wilderness books.  Here's the link.  His list includes A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold and Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy.  The reader comments to the story have more good suggestions of books where wilderness is the theme or adds a critical element to the story, including one of my favorites of all time:  Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.  

To a list of recommended wilderness books I'd add A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean as well as The Outlander by Gil Adamson.

The Outlander is particularly interesting.  Set in 1903, it is about a 19-year old woman who marries and lives an isolated life …

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