28 May 2009

books, in short

  • Songs Without Words (Ann Packer) : meh. Good ingredients, potentially-interesting plot elements, but - meh.

  • Frida's Bed (Slavenka Drakulic) : fictional biography of Frida Kahlo. Amazing internal dialogues and meditations about her paintings, as well as the pain and heartbreak that her illnesses and streetcar accident caused. I want to read this again someday with a collection of Kahlo's paintings handy.

  • In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan) : Pollan has done it again - its the best nonfiction I've read since The Omnivore's Dilemma. (Before that, I read The Botany of Desire, also a gem.) Pollan starts out with simple advice - eat food - and then tells how that simple statement has changed its meaning as the overprocessed and narrow Western diet has devoured the world's concept of food, creating epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Pollan has a way of writing about the business of agriculture and micromanagement of nutrients that makes me wish I could avoid supermarkets for the rest of my life. (However, I'm guilty of at least one of the sins of Western cuisine: impatience with / dislike of cooking, so 'twould be difficult.) The most startling concept in a book full of startling insights: the changes in agriculture, outlined in The Omnivore's Dilemma, have resulted in more food production with less nutrition in the food. Levels of everything from omega-3 fatty acids to vitamin C have been reduced, so you now have to eat more servings of each item (salmon, say, or apples) to get the nutrition you once would have gotten from one serving.
Next in the queue, I think : The Forest Lover (Susan Vreeland) - fictional biography of the Canadian painter, Emily Carr. Have any of you read it? What did you think?


avisannschild said...

Both Frida's Bed (which I'd never heard of) and In Defense of Food (which I already knew I must read) sound fantastic. Thanks for these mini-reviews. I must admit I wish you'd included pictures too though!

Aunt Amelia's Attic said...

Oh yes! 'In Defense of Food'!

Never heard of 'The Botany of Desire' though. Must look into that one.

'Aunt Amelia'
Aunt Amelia's Attic...

Dear you,...

Alice's Aunt

Anonymous said...

I think Ann Packer wrote The Dive From Clausen's Pier, didn't she? I hated that book. Threw it across the room when I finished it. The only reason it's still not there is because the dog started to chew on it, and that won't do, even for a book I hated.

I have Frida's Bed on my TBR, can't wait! Hadn't heard of the last one, sounds interesting.

KnitNana said...

I'm not much of a kitchen person, myself

Carrie K said...

I like to cook, but mostly only for myself. Michael Pollan is fabulous. I don't think I've read Ann Packer.

Rose City Reader said...

This Pollan book sounds great! And I love to cook, so I won't be burdened by guilt.

Denise~ said...

Currently reading Omnivore's Dilemma, yeah I'm way behind, but want to read In Defense of Food soon. Heck maybe I'll get it from Audible.
I'll get a copy of Frida's Bed though. Crazy about FH, and have several books of her work. Have you seen Frida's Diary? Very good.
I'm also crazy about O'Keeffe - any suggestions?