My dear friend and author extraordinaire kc dyer has invited me to participate in the Best of the Best of 2008.
I had to think about what I was going to blog about.....food, photos, books, movies, food. I decided to talk about some of my favourite reads.
But if I were doing food, it would be:
1. Homemade crackers with Cyprus Flake sea salt and sesame seeds
2. Crab rollups with wasabi
3. Lasagna with hot Italian sausage and Secret Sauce
4. Potato and corn chowder
5. Laura's chocolate flourless cake
6. Italian almond macaroons
7. Nana's Irish Soda Bread
8. Poutine and steamies (I'm being honest here)
(I have recipes for all but the last entry. For #8 you'll have to come visit me here in Montreal and then I will FORCE myself to go out with you and order some from La Belle Province.)
Okay, favourite reads of 2008:
1. WHEN I AM ENGULFED IN FLAMES by David Sedaris
His latest collection of short stories doesn’t disappoint. Irreverent, sad, hysterically funny, poignant, rude, silly, he just nails it every time. I got to meet him this summer and he was sweet and gracious, though at the time, I looked like a drowned rat pulled out of the sewers feet first.
2. ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION by Temple Grandin
Grandin is an expert in animal behavior, and she is also autistic which she claims is what allows her to truly understand and translate what animals see and feel. She says animals, like autistic people, react to visual cues and tiny details that most people miss, like a shiny puddle of water or a dangling rope or the soft click of a gate in a holding pen. She has singlehandedly influenced an entire industry and is the driving force behind the news laws governing humane handling of livestock around the globe. This book offers a look at our world through an animal’s eyes. Fascinating stuff.
3. STILL MISSING: AMELIA EARHART AND THE SEARCH FOR MODERN FEMINISM by Susan Ware
Amelia Earhart is unfairly remembered mostly for the way she died, disappearing at age 39 during a 1937 round-the-world flight. Yet during her lifetime, she redefined women’s roles and worked hard - as a lecturer, author, promoter, social worker, aviator, clothing designer - to champion women’s rights and, closest to her heart, to encourage everyone to fly. She believed that if women followed her example and excelled at aviation, then prejudice would disappear and all barriers to their success would fall. For children, especially girls, she was like a flying Pied Piper. One very cool broad.
4. YEAR OF WONDERS by Geraldine Brooks
Wasn’t sure I’d be into a book about the bubonic plague, but once I started, I couldn’t stop - it was an all jammie day. It is exquisitely written, and Brooks has a real knack for language. In 1666, in the tiny village of Eyam, Derbyshire, an itinerant tailor inadvertantly introduces the plague, so the rector advises all inhabitants to isolate themselves for one year to prevent the spread of the disease. This novel is the story of that year, told from the perspective of Anna Frith, the rector’s young widowed servant, and it reveals all sides of the human condition – love, greed, bravery, prejudice, sacrifice, envy. The ending is a bit of misstep, but don’t let it deter you.
5. A WOMAN’S EUROPE edited by Marybeth Bond
This collection of essays explores traveling through Europe as seen through a woman’s eyes. From women of all ages and backgrounds, the stories move from the Greek Islands to a Tuscan villa to skydiving in Scotland and beyond. Great for the armchair traveler looking for a little escapism.
6. THE FLYING TROUTMANS by Miriam Toews
I loved this book. A “road novel” which is funny and tender and sad, it tells the story of a twenty-something woman who rushes in to help her nephew and niece when their mother is committed to a mental institution. In desperation, they embark on a road trip to find their father (and here I want to say "and hilarity ensues!") Which it does, but also tenderness and real empathy. The characters are brilliantly written, the dialogue believable and knee-slappingly funny at times (anyone who has teenagers will relate) and I am in awe of Toews’s talent as a writer. Or is it Toews' talent? Stupid grammar rules....
7. ONE MAN’S WILDERNESS: AN ALASKAN ODYSSEY by Sam Keith from the journals of Richard Proenneke
Admission - although not particularly well written, I have a soft spot for wilderness survival tales. This book dates from the 70s, and my copy is an updated 26th edition. It’s about a man who, at the age of fifty, decided to build an Alaskan log cabin by his own hands and where he lived (alone in the wilderness i.e. with no roads in or out, and the nearest settlement forty air miles away) for the next sixteen months. He continued to stay on for another thirty years, making occasional trips south to visit family. I watched a documentary and I was captivated by this guy. The cabin is still there (May 30th 2008 marks the 40th anniversary) at Twin Lakes. I might make the journey myself one of these days if it gets any noisier around here.
8. ELMORE LEONARD’S 10 RULES OF WRITING Illustrations by Joe Ciardiello
A light, tight little volume that will take you all of 5 minutes to read (literally) that uses the word ‘hooptedoodle’ more often than one would think possible, the illustrations alone are worth the price. Charming and fun. Who wouldn't want to read a book with hooptedoodles?