Friday, March 18, 2011

Drowning in Books: Part One

Here's my problem. I'm drowning in books. Can't keep my head above water. In an ideal world I would find interesting books, read them, and then tell you about the best of the best. But with my "side job" working forty hours a week, and a very sick dog this week, and other things that fall into the category called "life," I am hopelessly behind. And I really, really want to read these books.

So I'm going to try something new. I am going to go through these stacks of books one by one and tell you about them. Briefly. And then you can decide whether you want to track them down or not.

Of course, if you want a tried and true "best of the best" book, you can always go to my shelfari book shelf at Those books have all been read by me and deemed worthy of the shelf.


Broken: A Love Story by Lisa Jones

I first heard about this true story from Head Butler, and you can read the fabulous write-up here. This is from the inside cover : "Writer Lisa Jones went to Wyoming for a four-day magazine assignment and came home four years later with a new life. At a dusty corral on the Wind River Indian Reservation, she met Standford Addison, a Northern Arapaho who seemed to transform everything around him. He gentled horses rather than breaking them by force. It was said that he could heal people of everything from cancer to bipolar disorder. He did all this from a wheelchair; he had been a quadriplegic for more than twenty years."

Slow Love: How I Lost My Job, Put on My Pajamas, and Found Happiness by Dominique Browning

From the inside cover: "For over a decade, Dominique Browning was editor-in-chief of Conde Nast's House & Garden. One Monday morning in November 2007, the magazine folded and she was told she had four days to pack up her office. Like thousands who followed her, she was out of work. Overnight, her driven, purposes-filled days vanished. With her children leaving home, and a long relationship ending, the structure of her days disappeared. She fell into a panic of loss - but found humor despite everything, discovering a deeper joy than any she had known."

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

I am midway through this book and I find it engaging and achingly familiar, due to my eight years in a yoga studio (now closed - that's the "aching" part). But you don't have to be a yoga student to enjoy Dederer's clever writing and her description of her Seattle suburban life with husband and child, her struggles with her marriage, and her extended family that includes two dads, who aren't gay. Intrigued? So am I. This is one book I am going to try to finish, and soon.

Blood, Bones, and Butter: The Inadverdent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton

Anthony Bourdain, chef and author of Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, said of this book, "Magnificent. Simply the best memoir by a chef ever. EVER. Gabrielle Hamilton packs more heart, soul, and pure power into one beautifully crafted page than I've accomplished in my entire writing career. [This] is the work of an uncompromising chef and a prodigiously talented writer. I am choked with envy."

The Revenge of the Radioactive Lady by Elizabeth Stuckey-French

From the inside cover: "Seventy-seven -year-old Marylou Ahearn is going to kill Dr. Wilson Spriggs, come hell or high water. In 1953, he gave her a radioactive cocktail - without her consent as part of a secret government study - that had horrible consequences. Fifty years later, she is still ticked off, and now that she has recently discovered where he lives, she's on a mission...Told from the varied perspectives of an incredible cast of endearing oddballs, this lively, intricately plotted, laugh-out-loud novel beats with the heart of a genuinely affecting family drama."

The Fiddler in the Subway by Gene Weingarten

Weingarten is a nationally syndicated humor columnist and writer for The Washington Post. This book is a collection of his best writing. The title refers to a question Weingarten tried to answer: what would happen if you put a world-renowned musician in a Washington, D.C. subway station? Would anyone notice? To find the answer he engaged Joshua Bell and set him up with a hat at his feet. Other notable essays include "The Great Zucchini," about a hugely popular children's birthday party entertainer who had some serious personal flaws, and my favorite (so far, because I still have to finish the book), "The Ghost of the Hardy Boys," in which Weingarten revisit his favorite boyhood literature only to discover what bad literature it really is, and goes in search of the author, who has a very surprising story to tell. I truly love Weingarten's writing. It is immediately engaging and accessible. He comes across as someone you would love to sit and talk to over coffee.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

I was fascinated when I heard that Steve Martin was a serious art collector. Such a different side to the zany comedian he presented to the world. Then he started writing books. He is the author of the novellas Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company, plays, children's books, and a memoir. An accomplished actor. And he recently released a CD of banjo music. Is there anything this man can't do?

His latest work of fiction delves deep into the world of art galleries and the buying and selling of major works of art. It follows twenty-something Lacey Yeager as she ascends the personal and professional heights available to her in the New York City art world. I can't wait to get to this book.

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland is the author of one of my favorite historical novels, The Passion of Artemesia. In fact, it was one of the first historical novels I ever read, and it opened my eyes to this genre and led to The Girl With a Pearl Earring and The Other Boleyn Girl, among others.

In the late 1800's, Louis Comfort Tiffany was becoming famous for his innovative stained-glass windows. But behind the scenes was Clara Driscoll, head of his women's division, who conceives of and designs nearly all of the lamps for which he is remembered. This is the story of Clara's struggle to make her art come alive in a world that had few options for women who wanted to both work and have a family.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

I probably would have passed this book up, except that Deb P. told me it was fascinating, and it is showing up on several "Best Books of 2010" lists. Puzzling, since the subject matter is so odd. But from all the buzz I am convinced it is worth a look.

Henrietta Lacks had cervical cancer, and her cells (now called HeLa) have been used for more than 60 years to advance modern medicine in the areas of cancer, viruses, in vitro fertilization, and gene mapping. The cells have been bought and sold a billion times. Her family did not know of her "immortality" until more than twenty years after her death, and they never saw any of the profits from the multi-million dollar industry that her cells launched. This is the story of the Lacks family past and present, the birth of the bioethics industry, and the dark history in our country of experimentation on African Americans.

Coming soon: Drowning in Books: Part Two


  1. haven't read any of these... but all sound interesting. i'll keep this list in mind when choosing my next book club book!

  2. Oh. Here's the POSERS information I thought I remembered. Duh! Okay. Memory refreshed. In I delve! Love this blog!