Recent Reads

Recent Reads (All of which I have loved and checked out from the San Francisco Public Library!)

Autobiography, Biography, and/or Travel Memoir

* The Autobiography of Malcolm X (as told to Alex Haley)

* Kim Sunee’s Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home—drool-worthy food descriptions (and recipes!) alongside a heart-touching autobiography.

* Susan Jane Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

* Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic–The first graphic novel that I’ve read and enjoyed. Very literate, intellectual, and sad and hilarious all at once.

* Stacey O’Brien’s Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love story of an Owl and His Girl—My gawd, I love owls!

* Asne Seierstad’s The Bookseller of Kabul

* Carrie Fisher’s Wishful Drinking—Knee-slappingly funny.


* Katherine Powell Cohen’s Images of America: San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury—My beleoved neighborhood! Fantastic, brief historical overview from the 1880’s to 2008 with photograph’s gracing each page.

About Public Libraries and the Love of Reading

* Don Borchert’s Free For All: Oddballs, Geeks, and Gangstas in the Public Library

* Emma Walton Hamilton’s Raising Bookworms: Getting Kids Reading for Pleasure and Empowerment

* Vicki Myron’s Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World


* Andrew Sean Greer’s The Story of a Marriage

* Robert Charles Wilson’s Darwinia: A Novel of a Very Different Twentieth Century

Currently Reading

* Michael Pollan’s The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World

* Donna Farhi’s Bringing Yoga to Life: The Everyday Practice of Enlightened Living

* Carol Off’s Bitter Chocolate: The Dark Side of the World’s Most Seductive Sweet

Currently Browsing (i.e. not reading every single page)

* Mothisa Yamakage’s The Essence of Shinto: Japan’s Spiritual Heart

* Terence Conran’s The Chef’s Garden: Fresh Produce from Small Spaces

* Swami Vishnu-Devanda’s The Complete Book of Illustrated Yoga

Future Reads

* Hooman Majd’s The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran

* James Dalessandro’s 1906: A Novel (about the 1906 San Francisco earthquake)


The SF B&B Club–The Saturday Evening Version

Good times, great company, good book (Eat, Pray, Love), at Luna Park restaurant for The SF Book & Brunch Club-Saturday Evening Version.  (Pictured left to right: William, Angela, Maria, and me).
We started off with the Warm Goat Cheese Fondue with Grilled Bread and Sliced Apples, and then Maria and I split the Grilled Alaskan Salmon with Asparagus, Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Mushroom Vinaigrette–both of which were quite delish.
And, as no trip to Luna Park is complete without their Bananas Foster, we had a couple to share and some of the Make It Yourself S’Mores.  Finally, no grand meal is complete without some good wine, so I indulged in the Cava, Brut Rosé, Marques de Monistrol, Spain, NV (with desert) and the Albariño, Martin Códax, Rías Baixas, Spain, 2006 (which was divinely delicious!).

More Reading

Originally published on my site HollYarns on April 22, 2008.

  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy=4.20 out of 5John picked this one up out of my books after we watched No Country for Old Men (which I give a straight 5!).  I had set this book aside this summer after reading Jim Crace’s The Pesthouse, as two post-apocalyptic stories in a row can be quite a downer.

I liked this book, but not as much as I would have liked to have loved it.  I had heard so much praise of the works of McCarthy (esp. Blood Meridian) that I imagine I expected so much more of him.  His writing is sparse–perhaps Hemingway-ish–and is pointedly missing punctuation; especially with contractions.

Oddly enough, I found the fundamentalist Christian nightmare of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to be much more frightening than McCarthy’s post-nuclear holocaust world.  I think we are conceivably at a stalemate with nuclear weapons–excepting perhaps North Korea?  (I think the Iranian nuclear rumor is just a scare tactic)–whereas, there seems to be a serious drive to re-imagine American history as a country founded upon/created by  Christian men (NPR Link here).

Nevertheless, I must tack on this gorgeous little excerpt:

Rich dreams now which he was loathe to wake from.  Things no longer known in this world.  The cold drove him forth to mend the fire.  Memory of her crossing the lawn toward the house in the early morning in a thin rose gown that clung to her breasts.  He thought that each memory recalled must do violence to  its origins. As in a party game.  Say the word and pass it on.  So be sparing.  What you alter in the remembering has yet a reality, known or not. (emphasis added, McCarthy 131)

Perrotta writes convincingly and lushly of the realities of everyday life.  Characters are detailed, real.

I especially enjoyed the main character, Ruth’s, spiel on her issues with Christian Fundamentalism as I am pretty much in agreement with her:

In a way she was grateful to Maggie’s [Ruth’s daughter] coach for making the situation so clear.  Until she’d seen those girls, those beautiful young athletes, sitting on the grass in the sunshine being coerced by adults into praying to the God of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and the Republican Party–the God of War and Abstinence and Shame and Willful Ignorance, the God Who Loved Everyone Except the Homosexuals, Who Sent Good People to Hell if They didn’t Believe in Him, and Let Murderers and Child Rapists into Heaven if They Did, the God Who Made Women an Afterthought , and Then Cursed Them with the Pain of Childbirth, the God Who Would Have Never Let Girls Play Soccer in the First Place if It Had Been Up to Him […] (Perrotta  161)

  • Currently reading–and loving–The Secret History by Donna Tartt.  Although set in somewhat contemporary times, it has a very Gatsby-ish feel to it.

Some Reading…

Originally Published on my site HollYarns on March 27th, 2008

During the months of November and December, I felt rather brain-dead, tired but not sleepy, and found that I was only succored to sleep or into a state of relaxation by cheap, paperback spy/intrigue thrillers. At last, in January, roundabout the time I started The San Francisco Book and Brunch Club, my mind awakened from its winter stupor, decided it wanted stimulation, and so I started reading “literature” again.

Here are some of the books I have consumed since then with a 1-5 rating system (wherein 5=superb and 1=blargh-boring):

  • The Passion of New Eve (my third reading)=4.90 for brilliance, quirkiness, and for being the inspiration for my masters thesis.

This book is enthralling in that it winds you around its metaphorical fingers like a master seductress. It is a mystery in the way that Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Dicken’s Bleak House are mysteries–stories that intrigue you as they lead you down a twisted path of discovery. It has hints of the literary Gothic (not the oftentimes cheesy mall gothic). It is a love letter to the novel in that it is a story of what makes a writer a writer, and through its adumbrating its literary forebearers–the Gothic, the 19th century British novelists–while staying firmly tied to the contemporary. The Thirteenth Tale is a perfect winter read. If only I had had a roaring fireplace to read it by…

  • Lilith’s Brood (Trilogy collection of Dawn=4, Adulthood Rites=4, and Imago=3.5) by Octavia E. Butler

I generally don’t consider myself much of a fan of science fiction, but this one was suggested by Matt of the book club upon hearing that my thesis considers gender, the deconstruction and/or distortion of the binary gender system, and the construction of gender in both Western and non-Western cultures.

For me, one of the most striking scenes in this book was when the characters go to visit the giant Buddhas in Bamyan before their destruction. This scene was amazingly well-written and brought forth my memories of watching the video of these Buddhas being destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. I remember being struck by the complete inanity of such actions* and being imbued with a deep sense of sadness at the loss of such great historical landmarks (constructed in the sixth century CE).
*(Of course, not being a Muslim, I say “inanity” as I don’t believe that it should be forbidden to depict living beings [humans or animals] as Islam does.)

I was definitely expecting more from this book; more Orwellian, more Atwood at her dystopic best. Nevertheless, it was an OK read–compelling enough to pull me through to the end, but nothing spectacular.

Definitely a polemic as Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals was a polemic. It is hard to read too much at once because Hitchens’ is so blisteringly on attack. I suppose that is his point, but taking the attack level down a notch would make for a much more readable thesis.

Just delish!

At the point of reading this, I was thinking to myself, “Please no more texts that have women at the mercy of misogynistic males!*”–nevertheless, I still read it. This story is set in the last part of the period of footbinding in China and makes for an intense read in its graphic details of the cruel practice of foot mutilation alongside the general degradation and self-internalized-degradation of women in Chinese society.
*Recently read texts with women at the mercy of misogynistic males: The Blood of Flowers, The Passion of New Eve (only portions of it), A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

I could only read so much of this story posed as an oral report on the takeover of the world by Zombies. Too gross, too creepy, just too much. It works well as an allegory for present political problems and unharnessed experimentation in biotechnology–but not well enough for me to read the whole thing. I recommend the first section.

I love the following quote from the book and see a possible connection being made to Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (This a note to myself for future reference, BTW!):

There was not only one photo in a negative, his father said; there were multitudes. A moment was not a single moment at all, but rather an infinite number of different moments, depending on who was seeing things and how. Paul listened to his father talk, feeling a pit open up inside him. If all this was true, his father was someone he could never really know, which scared him. Still, he liked being there amid the soft light and the smell of the chemicals. He like the series of precise steps from beginning to end, the sheet of exposed paper sliding into the developing fluid and the images rising out of nowhere, the timer going off and then the paper slipping into the fixer. The images drying, fixed in place, glossy and mysterious. (Edwards 214-5)

Started reading this before Arthur C. Clarke passed away in an attempt to better understand Kubrick’s film interpretation. Nyet–not so good of a book. Although I’ll give him some credit for sort of predicting the internet in 1968.

We’ve Been Bribed!

One of the authors–Liam Callanan of The Cloud Atlas–that we voted on for February’s Book Choice has graciously bribed us with 6 free copies of his book! I think we should take him up on the offer! What do you think?

Also, he has a newer book out, All Saints, which looks intriguing.

I think that at least 6 of us should take his bribe and give it a go!

February’s Book!

The poll results are in and the winner is…Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go.

What book do you want to read for February’s Meetup?

Kazuo Ishiguro’s–Never Let Me Go   (7)
Dianne Setterfield’s–The Thirteen Tale   (1)
Michael Cunningham’s–Specimen Days   (2)
Liam Callanan’s–The Cloud Atlas   (0)
Irene Nemirovsky’s–Suite Francaise   (0)
Jonathan Safran Froer’s–Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close   (0)
Khaled Hosseini’s–A Thousand Splendid Suns   (3)

Total votes: 13

Democracy in Reading!

What book do you want to read for February’s Meetup?
1) Kazuo Ishiguro’s–Never Let Me Go
2) Dianne Setterfield’s–The Thirteen Tale
3) Michael Cunningham’s–Specimen Days
4) Liam Callanan’s–The Cloud Atlas
5) Irene Nemirovsky’s–Suite Francaise
6) Jonathan Safran Froer’s–Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
7) Khaled Hosseini’s–A Thousand Splendid SunsView Results

Click on your book choice above which will register your vote.

Please vote by 6 pm on Tuesday, January 29th, so that I can post our book choice to Meetup.