Monday, June 30, 2008
By Ray Robertson
387 pages, ISBN 097767990X
From the back of the book – “ For Bill Hansen, things couldn’t be better. He’s got a beautiful folk-singer girlfriend, a job at Toronto’s coolest bookstore and, most of all, he’s got Yorkville, which in 1966 is nothing short of paradise for a boy from the suburbs. And then Bill meets the charismatic Thomas Graham, who draws Bill into an obsessive quest to create what he calls “interstellar North American Music” and the Duckhead Secret Society is born and launched on a whirlwind tour of bars, taverns and dives across America. But in the haze of harder and harder drugs, it all starts to come undone. As Bill recounts the rise and fall of Thomas Grahm and his musical vision, he simultaneously tells the story of frustrated idealism and the passing of an entire generation.”
This book was inspired by the singer Gram Parsons and while I am sure is not identical to his life there are enough important details to consider that if it is not a fact it certainly could have happened. I was born in 1962 so I watched this era of our history through the rose colored glasses of childhood. I could visualize each and every one of the characters as they would have been at the time. Not so much because of my memory but for the wonderful descriptions in the writing. The story was told by Bill but every so often you got a little snapshot into the child hood of Thomas. This was an important part of the writing style because you may never have understood Thomas otherwise without giving him his own voice in the book. Overall the writing was fun and interesting to read. I liked the fact that the author did not find it necessary to go deeply into descriptive love scenes or excessive use of foul language. Those additions would not have added in anyway to the story because that was not what the story was about. The only complaint that I had with the books writing was that occasionally I had trouble following who was saying what during a conversation. I had to re-read a few times but did not find it exceptionally distracting.
What I liked most about this book was the look at how charismatic individuals can sometimes enter and affect our lives. I have known many such individuals as Thomas through the years, some make it and some don’t. They often glow so brightly for a short time and then just kind of vanish. Thomas is no exception to this rule. The other characters try so hard to maintain their belief in what they are doing and in Thomas even when by doing so they are putting themselves at risk. This book is a perfect example of what addiction and co-dependency look like. At one point while I was reading I remembered how I felt when I was reading “The Outsiders” back in high school. I would find myself wanting to scream at the characters, “Stop! Don’t you see how stupid you are being”, but that was the whole point of the book. Sometimes we just don’t see that the road we are taking is not getting us where we wanted to go.
While I did like this book a lot it was not a book that I had to keep my head in until I was finished. I think that had more to do with the subject than it had to do with the writing. The one thing though that I think is important to also mention is that while the 60’s may seem like an era gone by it planted seeds in the young children that watched it from their playpens. I was to young to be influenced by the drugs during the 60’s but I was very much influenced by the message that it had to give and that is also what you will get from this book.
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Guaguin, Life, Art, Inspiration, by Yann le Pichon - I was just thinking today that next to Van Gogh, Gauguin is my favorite impressionist and Voila! the universe provides.
Verdura, Vegetables Italian Style, by Viana La Place - I am a true believer if we all learned how to prepare vegetables better we would eat more.
The Family Mark Twain, by Mark Twain - This volume has four complete works, 16 complete short stories, and assorted other extracts.
I am a home schooling parent and I just love it when I can add some classic resources to our library.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I am reviewing two books together in this post because I think these are both such valuable books to anyone who wants to take control once again to the foods that they consume. For too many years we have been a world of blind consumers that are willing to eat just about anything that has the word food written on it. I still want to know what "Processed Cheese Food" really is, or maybe I don't. Each of these books gets 5 stars from me and have successfully changed the way I eat from the land and the sea.
ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE, A Year of Food Life
By Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp, and Camille Kingsolver
This book for me was like returning home. After years of living in Tucson AZ the author and her family decide to return to their roots and learn to live off of the land and other sustainable sources. I grew up on a small farm and many of the experiences that the author talks about have such a familiar ring to me that I could not help but laugh out loud.
This book takes you through an entire year of planting, harvesting and storing their own produce from their garden and their own hand raised meat and eggs. When they were unable to produce for themselves the food stuffs that they needed, they purchased locally with very few exceptions. It was good to be reminded that in most parts of the country fruit is not available year round unless it is trucked in from somewhere else. During the coldest winter months in most of the country there are no crops being produced. In order to be able to eat locally produced food it is necessary to know how to store food and plan for those cold months. While this seems like a lot of work there is no feeling like finishing up a day of canning by seeing the “fruits” of your labor happily lined up on a pantry shelf.
Each chapter of this book takes you through a different month of local food production as well as discussing the many reasons why it is absolutely necessary that we start to look at the foods that we consume with new eyes. As well as the words of Barbara Kingsolver you will also see a section written by her husband, Steven L. Hopp on the realities of commercial farming and its impact on the environment as well as our health. Camille Kingsolver, the author’s daughter also adds a wonderful array of recipes that will answer the age old question of “now that I have a basket full of wonderful vegetables what on earth do I do with them?” I am especially thankful for the information on cooking asparagus. I have now discovered the pure joy of eating fresh local asparagus all by itself or with other foods.
I really liked reading the story of this first year learning to eat locally. While the author makes it clear that it is hard work sometimes it is not that difficult. You just have to make different choices than you are used to. You eat what is in season, by the time you are sick of it something else is in season so you eat that when it is fresh. At one point she talks about the abundance that can come from the zucchini. She comments on the need to lock your car doors not because someone will steal your car but that they may pass on their excess squash to you. I remember some years in Ohio when that was very true of tomatoes. Everyone always planted more than was necessary and the glut of tomatoes would keep your fingers in tomato juice until you knew it could never end.
After reading this book I thought to myself that I could be preparing meals from locally grown produce at least several times a week. To my surprise I had no problem eating almost everything locally. Now I have to admit that I live in Southern California and we have organically grown farmers markets available to us everyday of the week, every week of the year. In Los Angeles we have no excuse to be eating oranges grown in Florida. After about a week of eating local I clearly noticed an increase in energy and more ability to focus. I know that this was due to eating clean healthy local foods. One of the other benefits to eating local produce is that you get to know the farmers personally. You are supporting a person, a family, a real farm. Not a corporate CEO who has never seen dirt under his nails.
This book was an inspiration to me. The writing style is very enjoyable as well as being informative. It made me want to make the effort to rethink my food purchase choices. It is an honest account of how a family makes a conscious choice about their health, and the health of the world around them.
By Taras Grescoe
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. When it comes to eating seafood responsibly I have always felt at a loss for information. First of all I grew up in North Eastern Ohio and the only “local” fish there came from Lake Erie and there was a time that no one would eat fish from Lake Erie. I also am allergic to just about every kind of shell fish. So beyond the Gortons Fisherman my palate is unrefined to say the least. After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how the oceans of our world are being affected by the lack of understanding on the part of most of its people. This book, over the course of 10 chapters takes the reader through the problems facing our most endangered species of fish as well as the many reasons why these fish are endangered. It is not one simple problem but the answer is actually not that difficult to implement even though it is not popular every where. The answer is being informed and not accepting practices that are destroying our oceans. If we don’t buy products that are not ethically produced there will be no market for them. I liked the fact that every chapter had a focus on a specific fish and its ecosystem. What the challenges were for that ecosystem and what could be done about it. Because of this chapter by chapter approach when I want to reference the book again in the future I will have a much easier time finding the information I need. It seems to me after reading this book that the two main culprits in the problems facing our oceans is ignorant indiffference on the part of the consumer and the greed of those that see the ocean as a source of income and not a way of life. I will never look at seafood the same way again. While I am not a big seafood consumer myself I now want to explore eating the fishes that are sustainable and incorporate them into my family’s diet. After all fish is brain food. I liked this book a lot even though it was not a fast read. I had to work my way through each chapter because it was filled with so much information. The author does include a good index in the back as well as an appendix to resources. There also is a section on which fish to eat and which to avoid. My only real complaint is that I wish it had a good recipe for sardines.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Do you have any unique books in your library- books only you have on LT? How many? Did you find cataloging information on your unique books, or did you hand-enter them? Do they fall into a particular category or categories, or are they a mix of different things? Have you ever looked at the "You and none other" feature on your statistics page, which shows books owned by only you and one other user? Ever made an LT friend by seeing what you share with only one other user?
I have about 33 books on LT that I am the only one to list. Most of the books I was able to find an ISBN for or I used the Library of Congress number. I hand entered four of them which includes the favorite rare book I have. The most rare book I have is called "The People's Horse, Cattle, Sheep and Swine, Doctor" by William H. Clark. Published in 1892 by M. T. Richardson, New York. I bought this book at an outdoor flea market in Rogers Ohio for about $2.00. I have looked for it on the Internet and have found a couple of copies for sale with antique book sites. This is actually a very interesting book that I am sure graced the shelf of many well read herdsman. As a kid I remember that you never called the vet out to your farm unless things got really messy. Most of us farmers just dealt with it ourselves with the aid of books like this and handed down knowledge. The neat thing with this book is the former owner had clipped out newspaper articles on animal husbandry and placed them in the book as a kind of filing system. I have not moved them since they make this book so much more fun. I also have quite a few books that I share with one other person but I have had no luck getting anyone to respond when I sent them messages about these books. My obscure books are in all categories in my library, but most of them are in the Chinese Medicine group.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
What’s the most popular book in your library? Have you read it? What did you think? How many users have it? What’s the most popular book you don’t have? How does a book’s popularity figure into your decisions about what to read.
I am also one of the many who owns "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone". I do not own "The DaVinci Code" I have read the entire Harry Potter series many of them several times and own every video that is out. I think the main thing that drew me to Harry Potter was the whole wizards thing. I love the idea of not limiting ourselves and I think that is what Harry Potter does best. I had heard many good things about this book but it was the fact that I was trying to get a young girl to start to read "something" so I picked up my first two copies. (One for me and one for her) I don't think she ever read it but I got hooked. If a person takes a trip around my library they will find mostly non-fiction so popularity normally does not hold much sway for me. I am however starting to step back into the wonderful world of fiction and am wondering why I ever left. (I think it is because I get so lost in books I needed to come up and breath with non-fiction for a while) So in short I read what I like even if the world agrees with me.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Set in Papau New Guinea and also Boston the author starts the book mostly working two different time lines and places at once. I sometimes find this style to be annoying because I feel pulled away from one place before I have finished can be distracting. Kira Salak’s work, however, was very well done in this style. It allowed you to get to know the main character, Marika, in small snapshots just like you would a new friend. You were able to receive bits and pieces here and there slowly helping you to understand the main character better. I was immediately in love with Papau New Guinea and am appreciative of the opportunity to know more about it. I found all of the characters to be believable and I especially liked having the second voice of Pogo throughout much of the book. It gave the story a mirror for Marika and also a way to view the people of PNG.
If you enjoy fiction that takes you around the world and people learning to overcome their pain you will like this book. I recommend it.