Thursday, July 29, 2010

Random Tidbits

Simon Rich has a deal for his next novel, What in God's Name, where he re-imagines heaven as a celestial corporation employing incompetent but endearing angels trying haplessly to please their boss. Rich is a promising young writer and I'm thrilled to hear about his next book.

Jennifer 8. Lee talked to GalleyCat about Kindles. While she likes the Kindle, she points out some obvious flaws: you can't get them signed at book signings and you can't read them in the bathtub. She also points out that you can't see what others are reading on the subway and therefore they are less social. And I would add, they also don't have that book smell. The musty smell of an old book or the crisp, sharp smell of a new book is one of life's greatest pleasures. Although, now that the Kindle has come down even further in price, I must admit that I'm tempted.

The long list for the 2010 Man Booker Prize was announced Tuesday. Andrea Levy, David Mitchell and Peter Carey make the list.

Daniel Craig will star in the English adaptation of Stieg Larsson's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

Anne Rice can't seem to make up her mind. The author of the popular vampire novels, who was an atheist for many years before being "Called Out of Darkness," has apparently returned to the Darkness, declaring that she quits Christianity. Oh well. At least she got a best-seller out of it.

And last, but not least, I give you: the Jane Austen Fight Club.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Orange is the New Black

Fashion is the least of Piper Kerman’s worries when she receives a fifteen month sentence for a decade old drug charge. Ivy League educated, Kerman misspent her post-college youth in Europe, where she agreed to pick up a cash payment for a drug-dealing friend. She seemed to think of it more as running an errand for a buddy than money-laundering. Eventually, Kerman tired of her aimless existence and shady friends and moved back to the States.

Ten years later, she is living a happy life in New York with her fiancĂ©e when the police knock on the door. Soon Kerman is trading in her comfortable apartment for a cell and the bizarre culture of prison life, where inmates earn as little of 14 cents an hour and toiletries like toothpaste are a treasure to newcomers. At times, prison is as awful as she feared, complete with strip searches and creepy guards. Yet gradually Kerman adjusts, finding small unexpected joys (illegal pedicures and cheesecake? Who knew?) Her eventual affection for her fellow prisoners is touching as is her epiphany that her offense, though nonviolent, was part of a larger industry that destroyed the lives of many of the women she comes to know and care about during her stay. If you’re looking for an offbeat, nicely written memoir, try Piper Kerman’s Orange Is the New Black: My Year in a Women’s Prison.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Art of Eating In

Yes, another food book. But I swear there is a good reason for all of these foodie book blog posts, which will hopefully be revealed in a few months.* And, I've been trying to keep my posts only to those that I've really enjoyed, so I hope you aren't tired of hearing about them.

Anyway, I recently picked up The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove by Cathy Erway. For some reason, I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. In fact, I had only planned to skim it, but I found myself drawn into her story and pleasantly surprised at how much I was enjoying it. I even found myself comparing it (favorably) to Julie and Julia. Although not as humorous as Julie and Julia, it has some similar qualities. Cathy is a New Yorker, and although she is not a professional cook, she enjoys cooking. But like most New Yorkers, she eats out for most of her meals. When she realized how much she was spending on eating out, she decided to swear off restaurants and cook for herself. And like anybody who takes up a project these days, she started blogging about it. She experiments with new recipes and cooks meals for her friends and family. She is also introduced to new lifestyles, such as urban foraging, underground supper clubs, and Freeganism, which I first learned about in Tristram Stuart's book Waste. These were fascinating chapters, and although I have been told to "step away" from the idea of trying out Freeganism, I am interested in reading more about (and possibly trying) all of these. Interspersed with her cooking adventures are stories of her friends, family, dates, and moving in with (and later, out) her boyfriend. It's a fun, light-hearted, interesting read and should please fans of Julie and Julia.

P.S. Is it just me, or does it seem like New Yorkers stay up really late? This seemed to be a theme in both Julie and Julia and Erway's book. It seems like they don't get home until late and then they are eating at 10 o'clock at night. It seems common for friends to call or come by after 10pm. Is this a New York thing? Or a young people thing? I'm not that old, but I'm in my PJs well before 10pm and unless ice cream is involved, I rarely go out after 8pm.

*Are you intrigued? Stay tuned.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Medium Raw

What should I say about Anthony Bourdain's new book Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook? If you know me or have ever read this blog, you know I have an undying love for anything that comes out of his mouth or from his pen. Whether it's deserved or not, I can't help it. I love him. I love his snarky, cynical personality and biting wit; his books are wonderfully entertaining; and his show is intelligent and creative. And, he's not bad to look at either. Had I been the editor, there are some things I might have "suggested" he change, but nonetheless, I completely loved it. The book is a bit of a mish-mash of tales from his life and travels, thoughts on the current state of cooking and the restaurant biz, a bit of food porn, praises for those he admires and rants for those he doesn't (such as the chapter titled "Alan Richman is a Douchebag"). It's what you would expect from Bourdain: entertaining musings and bad language. I don't know if it's age, or fatherhood, or simply that he has finally "made it" but Bourdain has clearly mellowed. He's still got his edge, but that anger has softened a bit. He can still massacre someone when necessary (see chapter on Alan Richman), but he seems to have softened his attitude toward many of the chefs and cooks he has railed on in the past, like Rachael Ray and Alice Waters. If you like Bourdain, or are just into foodie books, this is a no-brainer: read it.

Although no one beats Bourdain in my book, Shelf Renewal has some suggestions for other good books by cooks. Marco Pierre White? Love him too.

Friday, July 16, 2010

How could you not want to read Gary Shteyngart's new novel Super Sad True Love Story after watching this trailer?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Author Visits!

There are quite a few great authors visiting the Chicagoland area this month. Be sure to check them out!

Thursday, July 8th - 7:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Mary Karr, whose first memoir The Liars' Club kick-started a memoir revolution, talks about her third memoir, Lit, the story of her recovery from alcoholism and mental illness.

Thursday, July 8th - 7:00pm at the Borders in Lincoln Park
Jonathan Tropper talks about his successful novel, This is Where I Leave You.

Friday, July 9th - 6:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Scott Sigler signs his novel Ancestor, a horror thriller tale of genetic experimentation gone awry.

Saturday, July 10th - 2:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Nancy Woodruff discusses and signs her novel, My Wife's Affair, about a failing writer who witnesses the blossoming of his wife's acting career and her increasing obsession with her portrayal of a famous eighteenth-century actress.

Tuesday, July 13th - 7:00pmat The Book Stall in Winnetka
Lily King speaks about her new novel Father of the Rain, a sharply insightful family drama in an upper-middle-class suburb, where she traces a complex and explosive father-daughter relationship from the 1970s to the present day.

Wednesday, July 14th - 7:00pm at The Book Stall in Winnetka
Laurence Gonzales, author of the bestseller Deep Survival, talks about his novel Lucy, the story of a girl rescued by an American primatologist from the war-torn Congo when the girl's father, a scientist, is brutally murdered. The child, it turns out, is the result of an experiment-part human, part ape.

Friday, July 16th - 7:00pm at the Barnes and Noble bookstore in Oakbrook
Best-selling author Brad Thor discusses and signs his latest novel, Foreign Influence.

Tuesday, July 20th - 7:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Carrie Bebris, author of the Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery series, will discuss and sign her latest novel,The Intrigue at Highbury.

Saturday, August 7th - 2:00pm at the Warren Newport Public Library
Jamie Frevelleti discusses and signs her new novel, Running Dark, about a chemist who investigates a Somali pirate ship that may be carrying a new weapon of unknown origin.