Reading Round Ups

December Reading Round Up

Well, it’s December 31, the  last day of the year. It’s been a good year here at Dining with Donald. The best part is that I’ve been making new connections with other bloggers. My audience has grown, and with that I’ve encountered many new bloggers who have become regular conversationalists. One thing that has happened this year is that I’ve done a lot more reading. Interestingly enough most of my reading has been offline, and that has been what has been the biggest factor in my reading more. So, without further ado, my last post of the year:

My December Reading Round Up.

Previous Round Ups

Quote of the Day Dec 18 to 31
Quote of the Day Dec 18 to 31

March, April, May, June, July, August, SeptemberNovember,

December reading round up
The story of the first Biotech tomato.

First FruitBelinda Martineau

First Fruit: The Creation of the Flavr Savr™ and the Birth of Biotech Food, is a book I picked up from the Winnipeg Public Library book sale, but didn’t start to read until I was in the middle of reading Mark Lynas’s Seeds of ScienceThis book makes a great complement to that book as it deals with much of the nitty-gritty of the scientific research that went into developing the world’s first commercially viable biotech food product the above named Flavr Savr™ tomato.

This was supposed to be a more flavourful, and shelf stable tomato. One that could arrive at the supermarket in better shape, and sit on the supermarket shelf for several additional days, thanks to changes made to the tomato’s genetic codes. The story is about a race between competitors, a race to satisfy regulators, and a race to stay ahead of public opinion.

Martineau’s book is especially helpful in that she takes the reader into the lab and does a good job of breaking down some of the complexity of the actual scientific processes used to develop the tomato. It also gives a good deal of insight into the regulatory process around getting the tomato approved.

If you are absolutely convinced that GM foods are a bad idea, this book won’t do anything to change your mind. If, on the other hand, you are undecided and would like to learn more, you will benefit from reading First Fruit. 

Many people think that the Flavr Savr™ tomato failed primarily because of the pressure of Anti-GM activists. Martineau’s book shows that the whole question is a lot more complex than that, and that in the end, it was the science which developed the tomato, that showed that the promises made weren’t achievable. When all was said and done, Cangene, the company that developed the tomato, and where Martineau was employed, made a big gamble on the Flavr Savr™ tomato, and lost big time, with not only the tomato failing, but the company as well.

December Slow Food.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from First Fruits, is Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Nation.

Slow Food Nation Carlo Petrini

Slow Food Nation: Why our Food Should be Good, Clean, and Fair by Carlo Petrini is an expansion of the ideas put forward by the Slow Food organization in the late eighties. Slow food by definition is against the industrial production of food, preferring food that is grown, organically, and locally.

It should be noted, that while Petrini is against industrial agriculture and the development of GM foods, he argues so on principal, while acknowledging that GM foods are indeed safe.

I find myself in sympathy with a lot of what Petrini says. Particularly about our need to slow down. Not only in how we produce our foods, but also and more importantly, how we consume them. However, there are a couple of problems with Slow Food.

Firstly, how we deal with extremely large urban populations. Secondly, and the root problem of all slow food, local food ideas, it presumes that everyone one in the food chain should be involved and dedicated to the process. It romanticizes and fetishizes agricultural producers as all being, hard-working, thoughtful and dedicated to producing food the most natural way possible.

I’m currently reading an updated rendition of Catherine Parr Traill’s “The Female Emigrant’s Guide,” and it’s clear from that book that lazy, unprepared, and ill-informed farmers have always been part of the landscape. With an ever increasing population this is an aspect of local farm production that books such as Slow Food, inevitably duck.

December Lords Supper polemic
A polemic on the subject

The Lord’s Supper in Human Hands – Editors, Bolt, Thompson, and Tong

I picked this book up at the Anglican-Lutheran centre’s annual Advent Open House from a giveaway table. Put out by the Australian Anglican Diocese of Sydney, this book is a polemic in favour of lay presidency at the Eucharistic table.

While there is a fair bit in the book about the principles of lay presidency, it is essentially a recap of the synodical process that the Diocese of Sydney has been undertaking to be allowed to offer lay presidency.

My biggest issue with the arguments put forward in the book, is that the diocese seems to see themselves more as protestant than catholics veering toward the puritan view of the reformation. Not a book I would recommend to anyone on the subject of lay presidency.


December Wilde Mystery
Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading Gaol

Oscar Wilde and the Murders at Reading GaolGyles Brandreth

This is the sixth in the Oscar Wilde series. I put in requests for the fifth and the sixth books in the series, and when the sixth arrived first, I took Brandreth’s own advice that the books don’t need to be read in order to be fully enjoyed.

Having read The Murders at Reading Gaol, I agree. Partly this is due to the fact that Brandreth, writing 100 odd years after the fact, doesn’t, in the earlier books, pretend that Wilde’s ultimate fate will be anything other than what it actually was. Partly this is due to each book focuses on the incident at hand.

Wilde died not many years after his release from Reading Gaol, in part from injuries sustained there. Brandreth does a good job of making readers aware of what life in such a prison might actually have been like.

As in the other books, there are multiple murders involved and in this case a brazen serial killer. When not bemoaning the state of his life in such a place as Reading Gaol, Wilde puts his Holmesian detective skills to work, to not only root out the killer, but to give the reader a surprise ending. I can’t wait to go back and read book five.

Bury Your Dead, A Trick of the Light, The Beautiful Mystery Louise Penny

This month I got through three more books in the Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny. I forgot to take a photo of A Trick of the Light, before I returned it to the library.

One of the things I liked about this trio is that two of the three saw Inspector Gamache taken away from Three Pines for the main mystery. In Bury Your Dead, he is mainly in Quebec City, and in The Beautiful Mystery.

Bury Your Dead revolves around a small English enclave living and working in the heart of Francophone Quebec City, a murder in their midst, the solving of which spins around the mysteries surrounding the final resting place of Samuel De Champlain.

One of the pleasant features of this story is that we are introduced to Gamache’s mentor, Emile Comeau. The story also gives us a great opportunity to experience some of Quebec city, which much like Three Pines, becomes a character in the mystery.

While all this is going on, Beauvoir is back in Three Pines, reopening the investigation that led to the conviction, for murder, of one of Gamache’s circle of friends. This brings to resolution the the ending of The Brutal Telling.

Next up was A Trick of the Light. Clara Morrow, Gamache’s closest friend in Three Pines, will finally have her long awaited art show. After the show in Montreal, there is a celebration back in Three Pines. The morning after of the night before, begins with the discovery of a body. A woman, who at one time, was friends with Clara.

As the mystery unwinds, memories are unearthed. Friends are not what they seem, and all relationships are not what they seem. Especially at risk is the marriage of Peter and Clara which from the beginning of the series has show cracks. What will happen to them, and will Gamache be able to rebuild lost relationships in the town.

Finally, The Beautiful Mystery. In this one Gamache goes to investigate a murder at a remote, isolated monastery. The prior is dead, and one of the monks must be the killer. The monastery, at one point on the verge of falling down, has been revived by the release of a collection of Gregorian chants. The Beautiful Mystery of the title refers to the addition of a certain chant line that transforms the chant from just good music into the voice of God.

There is also a mystery surrounding what many believe to be the first ever recorded example of chant. This comes after the prior’s body is found holding what appears to be a scrap of very old paper, with equally old, and odd, markings.

This book put me in mind, somewhat, of Dorothy Sayers’s Nine TailorsMuch like Sayers did with campanology (bell-ringing), Penny does with Gregorian Chant. Helping the reader to understand the beauty and complexity of the art form.

The title is also good, because, while the mystery of the chant may be beautiful, the mystery of the murder is quite sordid. On top of that Gamache’s enemies in the Surete are closing in, threatening to destroy, not only him, but all those whom he holds dear. The ending of this book has me eagerly waiting to get my hands on the next one.

Until next year, should Auld Acquaintance be forgot.

By Donald McKenzie

Anglican priest, and food blogger. This blog is focused on Food. It will feature reviews of places to eat books, and the odd recipe. I also write about what it means to gather together around food.