April was Easter month, and that means that my reading slowed down a bit as I had a busy time through until the end of Holy Weekend. Still, I managed five books this month. This might be the most diverse month I’ve had in a while. I’ve got one thriller, one sport biography, a couple of food biographies and one more on eating behaviour. Without further ado, here’s my April 2019 reading round up.
As a book lover I’m always looking for books that interest me. It doesn’t matter how many of the books I have that are unread, new or used books are always on my radar. I picked up I Am Third, a couple of years ago, and basically put it in a pile and never got around to reading it. However, earlier this month I was looking for something to read while I ate supper, and this book was just lying around, so I decided to give it a go.
I think what initially had caught my eye was the fact that the book was the inspiration for Brian’s Song, the 1971 movie which told the story of Sayers’s friendship with Brian Piccolo, who died far too young at the hand’s of cancer. As a black and white man rooming together on an NFL team, they were an anomaly in a time of great racial tension.
What I didn’t realize until reading the book was that their story was only one chapter and a few odd references in the rest of the book. In the main the book talks of Sayers’s growing up years, his recovery from a serious knee injury, his marriage, and his growing consciousness of racial problems in the United States.
The book is refreshingly hones, with Sayers speaking frankly about his successes and failures, both as an athlete and a human being. The main difference between this book and the original is that it includes an update on his life after football. The other interesting thing, is that the original was published just after Sayers had recovered from his original knee injury, and it ends on a hopeful note looking forward to the beginning of the next season, but in fact there was no next season. Another injury ended his career.
Last Chance to Eat, by the late National Post theatre and food critic Gina Mallet is a look at the way our approaches to food have changed over the years, specifically how more and more foods are being taken off our menus, ostensibly for health and safety reasons. However, the book is more than that it’s also Mallet’s story of here growing up years in England during and immediately after the Second World War, and all the ways that growing up was informed by the foods found around the house where they lived, and on their excursions to London.
In part the book is a lamentation over what we’ve lost in our focus on making food super cheap and homogeneous in nature. She specifically takes aim at the scientific research on food, and how often that research has been hijacked by special interest groups to promote their own agendas. This shows up best in her chapter on eggs, where she shows how partial conclusions have been seized upon to turn the egg from a near perfect food, to something that should be avoided at all costs, to one that ‘s okay to eat, sometimes. Each of these movements has been based on incomplete evidence.
Mallet’s writing style puts me in mind of Margaret Visser, well researched and with an academic but relaxed approach to the actual writing. Last Chance to Eat is a really good read, especially if you want to get a beginning insight to how food safety issues are often created, and or resolved.
Jack Reacher: Killing Floor – Lee Child
Every year around this time the Children’s Hospital of Winnipeg hold their annual Book Sale. It’s held up at St. Vital Centre, the mall closest to St. Philip’s, but every year it seems I miss it. So, naturally, this year, when I happened just to wander up to St. Vital on a whim, I arrived while the sale was on. As I entered the mall I walked by the food books first of all, but they seemed to be entirely cookbooks, which I have little use for, especially those by celebrity chefs who have turned food from a participatory to a spectator sport.
So I wandered over to the mystery section. This is generally quite sizable. I noticed they had popular authors marked off special, and so I picked up four non-Rebus Ian Rankin novels. Then I noticed that there were quite a few Lee Child, Jack Reacher, novels. I’ve only seen a few of the movie clips but the books come quite highly recommended by Ian Rankin, so I thought I’d give them a try. I managed to find Killing Floor, which is the initial book in the series.
I dove in and started to read. I couldn’t quite put together the time needed to finish it in one sitting, but I was done in a couple of days. The story is set in a too good to be true small town in the U.S. Reacher, wandering the highways and bi-ways, stumbles into a multiple murder for which the powers that be attempt to make him the fall guy. The plot involves large scale corruption, crooked cops, an honest detective, and a female cop who has more than a professional interest in Reacher.
The thing that stood out for me in this novel, is Reacher’s thoughtful nature. He doesn’t rush into anything, and spends time reflecting on his life and the circumstances that bring him to each place. While the story is decidedly violent, there is a lot more to it than that. Now, I’ve only got 22 more in this series to get myself caught up, and I will definitely be doing that.
Amy Cotler, author of The Locavore Way: Discover and Enjoy the Pleasures of Locally Grown Food, is one of the people who has long been at the center of the movement to encourage people to eat more locally grown food. The book itself is a manual on how to become a consumer of local foods.
As such this book is a really good introduction to the world of local food. It gives great tips on how to eat seasonally, including varieties of ways in which local ingredients an be included in your shopping and dining. It also gives a good selection of recipes to allow you to put your local buying and growing habits to use. Another thing I like is that is does a good job of distinguishing between local and organic, letting the reader know that something labelled organic is not necessarily local, and local may at times be better for the environment than organic
The one thing the book doesn’t deal with, and most such books don’t deal with is what kind of trade offs need to be made in terms of how a person spends their time to allow them to adopt local eating practices. Also, another general critique of this another local books, whenever they talk about food miles, they never seem to include the impact of traveling to a wide variety of places to pick up local ingredients.
On the whole this book is a good starting point when it comes to learning about local eating.
This is another one of those journey of self-discovery books. As such it’s an all right tale. The book starts with Tardi having stepped away from a successful New York restaurant, only to be confronted by the end of a relationship and 9/11, an event he observed from his balcony as it was occurring.
In light of this he heads of to the Piemonte region of Italy. The book chronicles roughly 18 – 24 months of his life. The self-discovery element of the book is rather bland. It can pretty much summed up this way: He meets a hot young Italian woman and they have lots of sex which is a metaphor for the life of the vineyard.
However, on the other hand, the book does give good descriptions of the wine making process. From the pruning of the vines during the winter to the process of turning the harvested grapes into wine and grappa, it’s an informative book on the nature of wine making without becoming too detailed and technical. For that reason alone the book is worth a read.
Well, that’s it until next month.