Monday, February 25, 2008

Worth reading

I used to read all the time. I've loved books ever since being read to as a child, and I believe that reading is one of life's pure pleasures. And yet, reading is one of the things I rarely make the time to do anymore. Getting out of the habit as at first the fault of my work; I started my career as an editor and proofreader at a small publishing company and so I had to read, letter-by-letter closely, almost all day long. I will tell you that this makes picking up a book at the end of the day pretty much the last thing you'd want to do. For the next -- what? -- well, 16 years or so my work entailed writing, editing, and proofreading. Meanwhile, I lost my taste for the current fiction of the day. I don't know when it was decreed that every piece of contemporary fiction had to include at least one mind-numbingly horrific scene, but it seemed to me as though no one were capable of writing any kind of a story that didn't include real violence against children, or women, or both, or sometimes men but usually when they were children. Every life seemed to have child abuse in the past. Is it just me? I couldn't find much I enjoyed and I burned out on all my classic standbys (classic English lit., then people like Ann Tyler and Marge Percy, Roddy Doyle -- oh, there were others I 'discovered' then read everything she/he had written). I got more into non-fiction and still love a biography and can read a cookbook as though it were a novel. Craft books don't count for these purposes....

But the truth is that I haven't read much (for myself) for the past few years, other than Harry Potter. So I was delighted when my friend Lisa loaned me Julie and Julia and The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen by Jacques Pepin. Thanks to a number of winter colds and freezing days at home, I managed to read both this year. For me, two books (plus one more, hang on) in two months IS something to write about. I suspect most of you would enjoy Julie and Julia, since it's a book by a blogger. Her blog got discovered and from it came the book deal; I may be the last of us to have read this book but if you haven't heard of it, she decides to spend a year cooking ALL of the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Even if you aren't that interested in cooking, the way her blog changes her life will intrigue you. Books like this -- written by hip young things living in New York City -- always make me feel a bit dowdy and out of it, but I felt that way even when I was a young thing myself so maybe it's just a fundamental style difference. But I don't think you'd be disappointed if you picked it up at your library. The Jacques Pepin autobiography is astonishing. Again, even if you're not big on cooking you will be captivated by his story and glad YOU didn't grow up in France during WWII.

And yesterday I finished reading a book my neighbor lent me -- Cesar's Way by Cesar Millan. Stay with me on this one. Maybe you've seen his show on the National Geographic Channel -- The Dog Whisperer? Anyway. Even if you don't have a dog, even if you do have a dog but aren't a fan of his show, or if there's any chance you think you might one day get a dog, or maybe if you had one at some point in your life, or maybe if you'd like some insights into your relationships with your family members (seriously), I recommend this book. Oh sure, I promised this wasn't going to turn in to an all-dog blog, and I'm standing by that. But I think you'll be just blown away by his insights into human psychology AND dog psychology; I am telling you that I've thought about my upbringing and about my relationship with Ken and how I function at work and how we're raising Dean (let alone how we're attempting to integrate a puppy into our lives) in an entirely. new. light. This is NOT a book about how to house-train a puppy. It is a book about fundamentally understanding the role that leadership and about the act of following a leader play in our lives. No kidding. (added bonus: the dog IS listening to me.)

4 comments:

Natalie said...

I have witnessed a wide divide between those that like Milan and those that despise him. I haven't had a dog in quite sometime, but I think Milan is insightful, rational, and effective... and even without a dog, I enjoy watching his program. And just last night I was thinking about how little I read... sigh.

Vienna for Beginners said...

Julia Child and Jacques Pepin were my favorite TV cooks. I own most of Julia's cookbooks and one of them cooking together (my then elven year old son insisted I buy it, he loved to watch their show too). Thank you for bringing those memories back to me, I shall look for Pepin's memoirs.
I wonder if I should tell my dog to read Cesar's Way? That rascals thinks of himself as Cesar. ;-)

Felicia said...

I need to add Cesar's Way to my list. I've heard others mention how good it is.

My secret to squeezing reading into my day is to listen to audio books. I have one going in the car and one in my studio.

Lil D said...

I barely read since having kids. I miss the days of being able to read a book in an afternoon - just because it's THAT good. These days I'm lucky to read a paragraph without being interupted...