I love to read. A lot. And it’s not really a big thing for me to tear through a book a week–or even twice that. I’ve gotten a few emails from you asking me what I’m reading and for book recommendations, and I thought this would be a fun way to share what I’ve been reading lately.
I debated long and hard about whether to share what’s on my bookshelf at the moment, or what I’ve recently finished. I opted for the latter. These are the books I’ve read–and enjoyed–in the past month:
A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, edited by Susannah Carson, foreword by Harold Bloom
This collection of essays by 33 writers–some of whom you’ve likely heard of (Virginia Woolf, Anna Quindlen, Harold Bloom), others like not, is a fun and insightful read for any Austen fan. With a caveat: I recommend you read it slowly. I breezed through the whole volume in a week (because I had to get it back to the library, which had me perpetually itching for more Jane Austen and less commentary. My personal favorites are “Jane Austen for Nerds,” C. S. Lewis’s “A Note on Jane Austen,” and “The Girls Who Don’t Say ‘Whoo!,'” which describes how Emma became Clueless.
Life, on the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat,by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas
I knew Achatz (chef at Chicago’s Alinea) from Michael Ruhlman’s The Soul of a Chef, but I didn’t know the whole story. I knew that in 2003, the James Beard Foundation named Achatz Rising Star Chef of the Year; in 2006, Gourmet Magazine named Alinea the best restaurant in America. But I didn’t know that in 2007, Achatz was diagnosed with late-stage tongue cancer, and the treatment plan left the chef with no sense of taste–an irony business partner Kokonas dubbed “Shakespearean.” (Thankfully, his sense of taste later returned.) This memoir describes Achatz’s path to founding Alinea from his childhood family-restaurant days, and his battle with tongue cancer. I could hardly put it down. (Warning: there’s a little salty language.)
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand.
I knew nothing about this biography when I picked it up. It had been highly recommended by trusted friends, and I was 278th on my library’s waiting list when I spied a copy in my library’s new-release-get-it-while-you-can-7-day-circulation section. I knew if I wanted to get through it, I had to dive in right away–so I did. Unbroken tells the story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete turned World War II bombardier. Since I came to the book knowing nothing, I was greatly surprised by the true-to-life plot twists–twice, so I won’t spoil it for you. But I do highly recommend the book. (So much so that I’m currently halfway through Seabiscuit, Hillenbrand’s previous biography.)
Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer
Into Thin Air was a re-read for me, and despite this, the book kept me up late till I reached the last page (again). Krakauer climbed Mt. Everest while on assignment from Outside Magazine in 1996, which is now known as the deadliest year in the history of the mountain. 8 people died on the mountain the day Krakauer himself summited; 15 died that season. A first-class adventure story.
The Woman at the Washington Zoo: Writings on Politics, Family, and Fate, by Marjorie Williams
Marjorie Williams was a journalist: a Washington outsider who became a political player by virtue of her withering commentaries on the politically involved that ran in The Washington Post and Vanity Fair prior to her death in 2005. Her Washington essays are still fresh, although the subjects–George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Colin Powell–don’t make the headlines as often as they did in her day. But my favorite essays are those about her unexpected fight with liver cancer: “Hit by Lightning,” and her last published column, “The Halloween of My Dreams.”
What are you reading now? Got any good recommendations? Share them in comments!