Monday, November 27, 2017

What I'm reading this week (11/27/17)

I've taken off a few days for another readcation following hosting Thanksgiving and decorating for Christmas (Friday). I'm down to just a couple books left to finish this month, so I may throw another title into the mix if I get a little bored.

Last week I finished:

I was telling my husband about Thanksgiving: How to Cook It Well last week, reading passages to him like "Let us speak plainly: you are going to need a lot of butter....Figure at least two pounds for the day. There may well be lots left over, to be sure, depending on what you cook. But two pounds sends a message." I've complained in the past about cookbooks that are too heavy-handed and rigid, because I'm someone who HATES being told what to do (esp. in something like cooking which I consider to be a creative endeavor), but that's the absolute charm of this book. Did I finish this book and still put my turkey in a cooking bag? Yes, I did. Did I still make Stove Top stuffing because my big brother and husband would boycott all future Thanksgivings if I didn't? Yes, I did. Were my cranberries the kind that come out of the can with groovy can-ridges on them? Yes, they were. As Whitman wrote: "Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.)." I enjoy every cantankerous, pretentious word of this book, even though I ignore it all. My rating: 4 stars.

I really liked The Penguin Lessons. For awhile it seemed that I would have to make room for it while figuring my top ten of 2017, but then, it sort of fizzled out. Is there anything more disappointing? This is the memoir of Tom Michell, an Englishman who worked at an all-boys school in Argentina in the mid-1970s. While traveling in Uruguay, Michell came upon a beach littered with thousands of dead penguins covered in oil and tar, victims of an oil spill. In the crush of death and decay, Michell notices one live penguin and is determined to clean up the little guy and send him back to sea. The penguin fights the cleaning until he realizes Michell is a friend not a foe, and he decides to stay with Michell at the school, making friends with all the boys there. He names the bird Juan Salvador ("John Saved"). This was a cheering, heartwarming story, perfect for this time of year. I loved it. It was full of adventure (smuggling Juan Salvador through customs) as well as stories of day-to-day life with a penguin as a pet (feeding him fished by hand). Unfortunately, the book kind of ran aground toward the end. It just felt like it ended too quickly, and too sadly. Perhaps since Juan Salvador only lived at the school for eight months (and 40 years ago), Michell had run out of stories. I'm not sure what happened, but I felt cheated somehow--I wanted more of Juan Salvado's charm. Still, this one is worth the read. It was charming and humble and, I don't use this word lightly, magical. My rating: 4 stars.

This week I'll be reading:

I finally got to start Amy Tan's Where the Past Begins last week. It is not at all what I expected. It's much more cerebral and navel-gazey and slow than I'd anticipated. Were it not by Amy Tan, I may have ditched it by now. Has anyone else read this one? What did you think?

Still savoring The Word We Used for It, though. I don't want this one to end.

My audiobook:

I'm pleasantly surprised by the quality of writing in Paula McLain's Circling the Sun. That alone is enough to make me like the book.

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