The Book Sommelier Returns (Part II)

For your reading delectation, I present these book pairings:

43944Suite Française and A Country Road, A Tree

Both of these books at set in France in 1940, just after the Nazi invasion in June. Irène Némirovsky’s Suite Française is looks at different characters affected by the sudden coming of war, based on what happened to the author. Jo Baker’s A Country Road, A Tree, is also based on an author’s life. It tells Samuel Beckett’s wartime story as though he was a character in one of his own sparely written existentialist works. The fact that these books are based on real history makes them especially gripping reading.

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton and The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau

These books might have been written just for me. They both explore the tension between the law and justice. The main characters in these novels are criminals. In The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, the eponymous character is on death row for murder, but there’s some question about whether she’s actually guilty. There’s a similar question about the protagonist in The Disappearance of Adèle Bedeau. Both characters end up punished for what they were accused of, and they both have criminal deeds in their background, but we are asked to ponder whether it’s just to be punished for the wrong crime.

853510Somebody at the Door and Murder on the Orient Express

I think of these books as opposite sides of the same coin. They have similar crimes at their heart: a man is murdered and there are a bunch of suspects, all with good motives for killing the man. There are also trains. While we learn who-done-it in Murder on the Orient Express, we never do in Somebody at the Door. Both novels are masterful explorations of the classic mystery. The murder itself is complex. Every clue might be genuine or a red herring. But the difference in the solutions (or the lack of solutions) makes one wonder about what might send someone over the edge to commit murder.


Bookishly Delicious; Or, Fiction Featuring Food


Norman Rockwell

In honor of Thanksgiving, I rounded up some of my favorite books that have food heavy plots and/or settings:

The Last Chinese Chef, by Nicole Mones

The plot of this book is decent, but it’s mostly a vehicle for the main character to explore the world of haute Chinese cooking.

Tomorrow There Will be Apricots, by Jessica Soffer

This novel is a story of developing self-acceptance through exploring a family’s culinary heritage.

Chocolat, by Joanne Harris

Because this is one is not only delicious to read, but also because it’s about food and the importance of self-indulgence. I frequently re-read Chocolat just because of the descriptions of the confections.

Feast of Sorrow, by Crystal King

This book would be great for food and history lovers. It tells the story of a Roman aristocrat’s chef, whose recipes ended up in one of the oldest known cookbooks in the world.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder, by Eli Brown

Pirates and food! The main character has to create great food everyday, or the captain will kill him.

Household Gods, by Judith Tarr and Harry Turtledove

Nicole is magically transported to ancient Rome. There, she learns to take charge of her life and her tavern. This features less cooking than Feast of Sorrow, but it’s still historically interesting.

Bon appétit and happy reading!

The Best of 2016-2017

These are the best books I read over the last twelve months…

The Best of 2015-2016

Looking for a good read and don’t have an age to dig through the last year of my reviews? Here are some of the best things I’ve read since last September:

The best of 2014-2015

One might think that it’s hard for me to remember what happened in the 206 books I read last year. One would be right. Still, there are books I read that stand out as the best of the year.

Here they are, in no particular order:

Nota bene: This list doesn’t exclude books that were published before 1 September 2014.

The List, 2014-2015

I have been writing this blog (in various incarnations) since late August 2005. It’s been moved from Blogger to WordPress, back to Blogger, and back to WordPress. It’s gone through three titles.

Because I started the blog in August, my “book year” runs from 1 September to 31 August. During that year, I keep track of every book I finish. (This started because people kept asking me. Then I got competitive with myself.). I’ve kept more and more information on my list, but the one for 2014-2015 is the most elaborate yet.

See the full list for 2014-2015

Because I’m a nerd, I started doing statistical charts last year. I like having stats.

The List, 2014-2015

Books for the bookish

I don’t make recommendation lists all that often, but I’ve had booky books on the brain lately. There are some books posted on NetGalley and Edelweiss that are like catnip to me. If I see a mention of bookshops, libraries, or mysterious cemeteries of forgotten books, I have to read it. Sometimes I’m disappointed. Other times, I find a book that captures the joy of what it means to be a reader. This list is to share the joy.

Readers are always looking for their next read.

This list is not ranked. It’s in order of books that occurred to me whilst making the list.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan

This selection is a little controversial because of the ending. Some people like it; some hate it. Either way, Sloan blends the experience of the traditionally bookish with the digitally bookish in a wonderful little philosophical thriller.

Salamander, by Thomas Wharton

I don’t have much to add to my recent review of Salamander (linked in the section head, just above this paragraph).

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

If you could become the custodian of one book, to make sure it’s not completely forgotten, which book would it be? What if someone is trying to make that book disappear?

Mr Fox, by Helen Oyeyemi

I almost didn’t include this one, because it’s more about authorship and writing, really. But one thing readers always wonder about is how the story came to be on the page in front of them. So, Mr Fox goes on the list.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin

Sure, this one is a little sappy, but I love it. A.J. gets to live a life that, for the most part, other readers would envy. He lives surrounded by books and stories.

I trawled through my list of books that I can remember reading to compile this list, which doesn’t contain nearly all of the books I’ve read that involve books and reading. These are just the best of the best. You might ask why books like The Book Thief and The Thirteenth Tale aren’t on this list. My answer is in two parts: a) I made the list and got to decide the criteria, and b) I think The Book Thief is more about other things than it is about reading.

As I scrolled through the list, I kept seeing books like Libriomancer and The Eyre Affair, which are very much about books and story. But they’re not about reading, so they’re not on this list. It occurs to me that I’m going to have to do a list of my favorite meta-literature (books messing around with other books).

Okay, enough editorializing and explaining. Go read, people.

Reader Resolutions, Year II


Leslie Prince Thompson

Last year, I made a set of resolutions for my reading life—since I know I would never be able to keep any resolutions about exercise, being more social, etc. I planned to whittle down my to-read list, read a classic novel (pre-1950) every month, and be better about keeping up my reading journal.

I mostly got there. I was doing pretty good until November, when I tried to read The Turn of the Screw. Other than that, I did manage to read a pre-1950 novel or novella every month in 2014. I did resurrect my reading journal (which has gotten more useful lately). But for every book I took off the to-read list, another one (or two) went back on. ::sigh::

I’ve been thinking about these resolutions for a while. I think I can stick to them for a year.

  1. Keep reading a classic a month. There are so many books I missed while I was an undergraduate. Even with all the new books coming out every week, it’s important to look back at books with true staying power.
  2. Re-read a book I already own once a month. While I was listening to Good Omens, I developed a strong urge to re-read the book. It’s been a while. Also, over the break, I visited a bookstore and found a few more titles to add to my library. When I returned home, I had to shuffle things around to make room for them. My shelves are packed with great reads; it would be a pity to let them languish. So, more re-reading in 2015.