January 07, 2011

Books of 2010 and Persephone Secret Santa


Remember the charming Persephone Secret Santa? Well, mine was delayed because of the horrible snow in England, so it was waiting, nice and cosy, in my mailbox when I returned from my Christmas travels. My Santa was Helen Kestle, of the wonderful blog Lovely Things (a sampling of recent topics: Dylan Thomas, Christmas Ornaments, cheese: I think I like this lady!), and she sent me Plats Du Jour by Patience Gray and Primrose Boyd (I'd read it for their names only!) Plats Du Jour was a very influential cookbook in England--published in 1957. It heralded the return to home cooking after the war (and subsequent obsession with canned goods and TV dinners) (which, frankly, I don't know was as powerful in England, though rationing was worse).

She also sent some lovely Lavender and Rosemary soap, that smells precisely like heaven, and fun kitchen sticky notes, which I will use all over my cookbooks. I am always looking for ways to write notes in my cookbooks. I love it! Thank you, thank you, thank you Helen! It was well worth the wait!

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Since we're talking about books, I thought I'd do this little meme which I stole from Emily Hale...though she didn't put it up on her blog...Anyway, I loved it, and thought it would be a fun way to jump back into blogging:
Best Reread: The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene. The first time I read this I thought "Meh? What's the big deal?" This time I was overwhelmed by the sense of renewed innocence in our old friend the Whiskey priest. It seemed to be all about childhood: his mean daughter, the boy who sees him die, the captain's daughter--approaching womanhood--and his own final surrender to the will of the Father. Favorite re-read runners up: The Girls of Slender Means and The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, by Muriel Spark. Six Word Synopsis: Whiskey priest becomes child of God.

Longest/Hippest: A Sick Day for Amos McGee by Phillip and Emily Stead was not longest, but certainly the hippest since it is likely to win the Caldecott this year--and deserves it. Beautifully illustrated, delightful story. Plus, a penguin, and elephant, and turtle! Six-word synopsis: Zoo animals visit sick friend Amos.

Silliest: Shine on, Bright & Dangerous Object by Laurie Colwin. I fell in love with Colwin's work last fall, devouring Happy All The Time and her short story collection, The Lone Pilgrim. But this one was a flop: a young widow falls in love with her brother-in-law, tries to find herself at a music camp, has an affair with a fellow musician, and somehow this confirms in her heart that she must be with her brother-in-law, and damn the world if it thinks otherwise. Very silly, and not in a good way. Self-justifying junk, wrapped in lovely prose. Six-word synopsis: Widows won't despair [if] they sleep around.

Most Inspiring: A Child in Winter: Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany with Caryll Houselander edited by Thomas Hoffman. I basically skipped all the editorial stuff, and just read these short excerpts from some of Houselander's larger works that deal with Christmas. I clearly loved it: I quoted it all Advent. Six-word synopsis: Treasure every word; each is golden.

Gut-Rippingest: Will you all laugh at me when I say Dorothy Sayer's Gaudy Night? Ok, ok, it wasn't gut-ripping, exactly, except that I could not put it down and I was in agony about whether Harriet would ever come to her senses, and what was up with all that freaky destruction, and oh, why-o-why can't I live in Oxford?! The real gut-ripping moment came, however, when Whimsey proposed again and my latin failed me.  Six-word synopsis: Mystery, Romance, Oxford: it pleases me.

Still Haven't Read: War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky . Six-word synopsis: I KNOW its a good translation.

Just Plain Best: The Children's Book by A. S. Byatt was fascinating, deep, engrossing, charming, sad, rich, historic, surprising, shocking, and all these words seem lame describing Byatt's masterful prose. I am still thinking about it, almost daily, 8 months after having finished it. Six-word synopsis: Hey! The kids are all right.
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+ More book love: There's lots of heavy theology on this Ignatius Press list, but I am especially glad that Muriel Spark makes several appearances.

+ Julie has a wonderful review of the new book on Mary, as well as a new fiction podcast!

+ My Caldecott Predictions are up on LLB.  Check them out, and tune in Monday to see if I'm right.

By the way, my new year's resolution, book-wise, is to only read books recommended to me (or given to me, which serves as a recommendation).  I find that I am always giving recommendations, but I am rarely getting them.  First on the list: Offshore by Penelope Fitzgerald.  It won the Booker Prize, and I love her other work, so it won't surprise you that I am almost done. So, quick, give me recommendations!

From Book Lovers Never Go To Bed Alone


  1. Anonymous12:09 PM

    Well, I am very glad your present finally arrived and that you like it, but I cannot believe it took so long! I suppose I shouldn't give up hope of my brother-in-law in Spain receiving his present then!

  2. Ah, such a lovely and well-considered gift! So pleased that it eventually reached you, Margaret. Thank you so much for participating.

  3. A couple of things:

    I love your new profile pic (it is new right?!).

    Your 6 word synopsis of the Children's Book was HYSTERICAL and awesome. I have to send it the Bark Savage.

    I recommend:
    - The Game (and/or Babel Tower), AS Byatt

    maybe more later. great resolution.

  4. Book recommendation: The Reapers Are The Angels by Alden Bell (and also the subject of our first episode at A Good Story is Hard to Find ... thank you for the link!)

    I love Laurie Colwin but have only read her food writing so when you commented it made me laugh because we intersected on the writer but not on her works. :-)