Friday, March 25, 2011

The livres of others...

For the past few months I have been reading borrowed books – the books of others.  Not that this is anything new.  I was a big fan of the Greenville library, but because Greenville and Northville before it had such good collections I did not have to scavenge.  When I’m trying out new authors I always borrow the book first; but once I find favorites I start building my collections through purchases.

My favorite of the borrowed books is “The School of Essential Ingredients” by Erica Bauermeister. I recommend it for those who enjoy food-related literature. The reader meets each of chef-and-restauranteur Lillian’s students through recipes, recollections and food related stories, and the hope and inspiration of the novel come across as strongly as the aromas and tastes of the ingredients. I have not been this taken by a food book since Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life.”

As I mentioned before, I recently joined the IWC book club. So far I’ve only participated in one discussion, and this book, “The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World” I purchased from My Amazon e-mails now arrive in French, and my “suggested reading” reads like the book club list, for many an IWC book club member buys all the books from this source.  Although I initially didn’t like this novel by Eric Weiner due to his technique of posing rhetorical questions to progress the story, I was hooked as soon as the adventurous travel began. The author spent a year traveling the world to find the happiest places and try to discern what makes them ‘happy’. It is left to the reader to decide what conclusions to draw about happiness from his accumulated observations and research, but besides the bliss factor, I really enjoyed reading about the vast differences in culture and mentalities of the many countries he visited.

Spring is here!

I’ve purchased a book or two at the local bookstore also, but the English language selection in the Auvergne can not be expected to be extensive and the prices are quite a bit higher. One purchase, “Chambres d'hôtes au Château” is a wonderful resource recommended by our friends in Chatenet, that lists 110 châteaus that rent rooms. The wonderful pictures give a good idea of the atmosphere of the restored castles, and we have already bookmarked several that we will try to visit in the next couple of years. From the same friends I also borrowed a couple of books, “A Year in Provence” by Peter Mayle and Bill Bryson’s “Notes from a Big Country”, two selections that are must-reads for any expat. The former was a wonderful book that I am surprised I had not read earlier, and seems to be one of the first of many books describing the lives of Brits/Americans/etc. that have moved for the long-term to experience life in the French countryside. The latter was funny (although not one of Bryson’s best), about having returned to the US after living in England. Written in short essays, he rediscovers things that he had missed while abroad but also has quite a few ridiculous stories about ridiculous situations that can only happen in America.

At the last book club reading I brought with me a few books that I had finished, hoping to swap for a few new ones, and I did not leave empty handed.  I believe all three are former book club reads and I am disappointed I could not participate in the discussion for them… All had a common touchpoint in World War II, with the darkest being “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak. Another book I had intended to read for some time, I couldn’t put it down despite the emotion and sadness on page after page. Set in 1939 in Nazi Germany, a little girl’s life is changed by a found book. Written from the viewpoint of Death, it is not the usual war-memoir. “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” by Jonathon Safran Foer is the story of a boy coping with the loss of his father on 9/11 with a quest to find the lock that his father’s key opens. Excellently woven into the tragedy of 9/11 are strands of World War II memories and the resulting heart-rending tale brought me repeatedly to tears. The last, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows recounts the story of the occupation of the island of Guernsey by the Nazis. As in the other two books we read about goodness found in unusual places, unlikely heroes, and coping with loss.

Finally I want to mention three very good books I was gifted by my relatives back home, who always save their most out of the ordinary recommendations for me. The first, “Motorcycles and Sweetgrass” by Drew Hayden Taylor, is a blend of folklore of the indigenous peoples of Canada and contemporary issues and politics. The book jacket says it succinctly; “A story of magic, family, a mysterious stranger . . . and a band of marauding raccoons.” Extremely appropriate was “Dead in the Dregs: A Babe Stern Mystery” by Peter Lewis, due to a French tie-in, and genre. I love a good mystery, and by intertwining Napa Valley and Burgundy wine aficionados have much to think about in addition to the staple of every mystery – the murder. And is there a better way to end than with “Last Night in Twisted River: A Novel” by John Irving. From the author of classics “The World According to Garp” and “Cider House Rules” the newest novel once again  treats the subjects of life and love with expressive, well-chosen language, and makes the reading of another Irving book seem like a trip back to a recognizable, contented place.

Here is a picture of Lauris in his contented place, with his two buddies! More on these three to come!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...