Do you ever catch yourself reading things that are vastly different from one another in tone, theme and subject? That’s what happened to me this month! I find myself drawn to non-fiction most of the time but I try to keep from getting in a rut by reading a variety of things.
Michael Pollan was recognized in 2010 by Time magazine as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world. His previous books Food Rules, In Defense of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and The Botany of Desire, were all New York Times bestsellers. I chose Cooked for simpler, more obvious reasons: I love to cook and eat.
Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation, by Michael Pollan, is his exploration of the art of cooking. Pollan observes that more Americans spend less time in food preparation than ever before, yet spend hours watching cooking shows on television. He reflects that the process of cooking is more satisfying when shared. So he is determined to master the four foundations of cooking: grilling, braising, baking and fermenting. These four happen to coincide with the four elements: fire, water, air and earth. His descriptions of mastering cookery in each element are uniquely and eloquently descriptive. He travels the world to find perfection and along the way appreciates the science and relationships between making excellent food and taking the time to prepare food beautifully. If you are a foodie, you will enjoy this celebration of cookery! Recipes included.
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls is a collection of essays by comedian David Sedaris. Sedaris’ writing style is honest, raw and has a thread of very dry and cheeky humor that had me laughing out loud. Several of his essays are quite sad, bordering on tragic and a couple of others bothered my political and religious sensibilities. Why would I read something that I might consider offensive? My reason is that I want to try to understand others who have differing viewpoints than what fits my comfort zone. I also believe life is too short to read something you don’t enjoy. That being said, I did read the complete book and as a whole, I enjoyed it. You can be the judge as to whether his humor tickles your funny bone or not!
The third book that I read is Maya’s Notebook: A Novel by Isabel Allende. I was fortunate to hear Ms. Allende speak at the Texas Library Association Conference last month. Prior to her speech, everyone told me, “You’ll love Allende—she’s so humorous!” I was quite surprised to find her in a very somber mood. Although Maya’s Notebook is a work of fiction and suspense, it is based on the story of her late stepson. She revealed that he had a lifelong struggle with addiction and unfortunately succumbed to it last year.
Maya’s story begins when she is just 19 as she travels in secrecy to an island off the coast of Chile. Over time, we learn that she has lived a life far beyond her years due to drugs, alcohol, crime and the underworld. This coming-of-age story held my interest and showed me why Isabel Allende is a best-selling author. I also found her writing style very different than other authors. The reason for this is that it is a translation as she writes her first draft in Spanish.