Saturday, August 31, 2013

Best Book of the Year So Far: Seamus McGraw

Seamus McGraw 

I became only a little obsessed with Seamus McGraw after reading his fantastic book, End of Country: Dispatches from the Frack Zone. My obsession became full blown when I realized that Seamus and I both shared a passion for the wind in our hair and the open road. He rides a Triumph Thruxton (it's a real thing) and you can find me roaring up and down the highways of Austin on my Yamaha (more precisely my Yamaha Vino which even more precisely is less of a motorcycle and more of a scooter with a maximum speed of about 60mph ....65mph downhill bitches!). Anyway,  I guess we're kind of soul-mates. 

Here is Seamus' pick for best book of the year so far:

If, like Michael Pollan, you have the luxury of being able to spend time in a Connecticut convent learning how nuns make cheese, or hand rubbing cabbage and burying it in your backyard to make your own kimchi, chances are you have both too much time and too much money and would be unlikely to do either.

In that case, you might want to be buy a copy of Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation and give it to your personal chef.

If you’re more like me, however, with too little time, too little money and much more modest ambitions, you might want to pick up a copy for yourself. There’s still something in the book for you. With his typical self-effacing wit, Pollan reminds you that even the simplest act of cooking – a basic sauce or stew for example - is an almost mystical act of transformation. And it is also an act of rebellion against a top down culture of corporatism that constantly seeks to strip us of the power to do even the most basic things for ourselves. All in all, its a good read, peopled with interesting characters, among them a monk like bread baker, and its even got a few decent recipes thrown in.

I recommend it. I do not, however, recommend making kimchi at home. 
We have people for that. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Best Book of the Year So Far: Joe English

Joe English trained me for my first position at Random House, which was working with national accounts. He gave me a piece of sage advice which I still find myself using on occasion. He said, "Hey, if you're ever looking for a Borders or a Barnes & Noble and feel like you might be lost, just look for a Bed Bath and Beyond or a Best Buy, it's a sign you're close." 

Here is Joe's pick for best book of the year so far:

Among my favorite children's books this year is Twerp by Mark Goldblatt. It's a story about bullying, but from the perspective of a perpetrator. Without condoning any of the actions described, Twerp deftly examines the kind of peer pressure that can lead to one kid turning on another. Author Mark Goldblatt gets inside these boys' heads - he knows how they think, how they talk, and what motivates them. And the journaling format - the main character unveils the story through a writing assignment at school - allows for (and subtly encourages in readers) the kind of soul searching necessary for true redemption.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Best Book of the Year So Far: Melanie Benjamin

One of the coolest things about Melanie Benjamin (other than once drinking Harry Caray under the table) is that she often promotes other writers on her Facebook page. She reads a wide variety of books and has a knack for finding really good reads. I guess I should say that the Harry Caray thing isn't true, but wouldn't that be nice? We love ya anyway, Melanie. A little something for you as the Cubs season winds down. 

I think my favorite book of 2013, so far, is Instructions for a Heat Wave by Maggie O'Farrell. She is such a gorgeous writer and explores so beautifully the minute little anguished details and disappointed relationships that can build up in even the most apparently loving, normal families. Her latest takes place during a heat wave in Great Britain in 1976; a placid, seemingly unexceptional father of an Irish family takes a walk and doesn't come back, and this act sets in motion the revelation of both long-held secrets and unexpected acts of compassion within his family.