Books Read: February
Usually, I have to say, I read more than this. I have been consumed with Gigantic Magazine [now Gigantic Sequins] for most of this month, and also my masters thesis. I should have worked more on both my thesis and relearning the French language for my foreign language proficiency exam on Friday, but.
Here’s the deal. I keep track of the books I read on pieces of paper I keep in a folder I’ve had since 8th grade. I have kept a list of every book I've ever completed reading since July of 2000. There are some rules. I have to actually finish the book, cover to cover, for it to go on the list. When I was younger, I would put, for example "read four stories from James Joyce's Dubliners." Yeah, no longer allowed to do that. I should probably keep track of the specific editions I read of each book instead of just the title, author and date finished (oh and my 'rating', but that's a funny little Kim-system I won't bore you all with). I also make sure to mark my re-reads, because they don't count as reading a new book, persay. So, when I counted all of the books on this list a month or so ago, I made sure not to count the books I read twice (or three.. or four.. or five times...) any more than once. Another rule is that no matter when I started the book, it only goes in the records when I've finished it. So, for example, if I started reading The Short Stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald um, let's say, four? five? years ago... I don't get to write it down until I've read the entire thing cover to cover. And it will go in whatever month I finish it in, despite the numerous months I read it during.
Without further ado... (the good thing about this thing, I suppose, is when I make my "Books Read: March, my introduction to it won't be nearly as boring, as I will not repeat any of the above...)
In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto by Michael Pollan
I guess if I gave an award for my favorite book I read each month, this month this book would win. I find myself referring to the affect this book has had on me as "brain-washing", but maybe that makes it sound like it's a bad thing. I was glad to be brain-washed by the super-intelligent, informative and well-spoken Michael Pollan. Kathy Rooney recommended this book to me awhile back, and I didn't get around to reading it until now because it's been front-listed and hardcover at work, forever. I finally managed to read it on my breaks at work (and sometimes sitting on top of ladders, while working, shh.) I already have issues that most people don't have with the way I have to eat: I have a chemical sensitivity to man-made preservatives. Okay, that sounds weird and make believe, but I assure you, it's not. Reading this book made me feel like my sensitivity was less of a problem and more of a progressive genetic mutation that occured somewhere along the maternal side of my family line (my mother has the same problem.) Thank you, Michael Pollan, for making me feel like a superhero. Reading this book you will learn the difference between what most people nowadays consider to be food and what actually is and isn't food. Tonight, for dinner, I had what I would call a Michael Pollan-approved meal. Local farm-raised catfish baked with dill and cajun spices; baked and breaded mushrooms; and an arugula blend salad with tomatoes and a splash of balsamic. I eat nuts and fruits as snacks now and avoid anything processed or that comes with more than five ingredients. I don't buy things from the supermarket that have anything listed in the ingredients that's foreign to me. So yes. I have been brain-washed in a sense. But healthily so. When spring comes, and the market has fresh fruits and veggies galore, you will find me shopping there. I try to eat (and drink) as local and as fresh as possible. I've cut down on my meat consumption and eat more fish, fruit and veggies that I have. Lots of whole foods. Eating this way will, according to Pollan, help my body prevent many of the uncurable Western Diseases, keep me healthy and is also better for the environment than I have been eating. Pollan's simple manifesto? Eat food. Mostly Plants. Not too much.
Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating by Marc Bittman
This book was sort of a follow-up to the Pollan book. Where Pollan focuses on eating better mostly in order to stay healthy, Bittman pays more attention to the affects eating better has on the environment. While both authors discuss both angles, this book definitely had more information on how eating more whole foods, less meat and as local as possible will help sustain the earth, cut back on global warming and lessen your carbon footprint. This book was in some ways a reiteration of the Pollan book, yet it gave good and different tips on how to follow a healthier more sustainable diet. I admit I didn't read the recipes in the back, because recipes are more like reference points than... readable material. I skimmed through a few of them, and vowed to borrow the book and scan into my computer the ones I think I might make. Or if the book is ever not front-listed and hardcover, I might buy it. (I also read this one mostly at work.)
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
This was a reread of a novel I read only last summer. I reread it because I am writing my masters thesis on Zadie Smith. I bought hardcover copies of each of her books (except for the slim volume of her short-stories I had to order offline because it wasn't published in the states) so that I could write all in of the paperbacks. I basically went through, reread the story and underlined/ circled/ noted every single cultural reference (be it pop culture or high art) I could find. If you haven't read this book, you should. It's excellent. I'll say no more, if only because I have to write a thirty page paper that includes thorough analysis of this novel, and don't want to bore myself...
How Fiction Works by James Wood
I don't remember as much of this book as I thought I would when I began reading it. It captivated my attention for the better part of the beginning of this month, but then toward the end of the book, I grew restless with Wood's analysis of books I hadn't read and felt that he was repeating himself in disguised ways. I did learn a lot from this book on how to analyze fiction. It helped me edit the few stories we are publishing in Gigantic Magazine. And I am glad to have read it, and glad to own it now, thanks to Jesse. Super double triple a million thanks.
Sometimes My Heart Pushes My Ribs by Ellen Kennedy
I reviewed this book for volume 1.1 of Gigantic Magazine, don't know if you've heard of it... due out in April...? Well. Look for my thumbs-up review there. Soon. So soon. Meanwhile, check out the Muumuu House site for more information on how awesome this book is.
Alright, that's all for the books I read this month. It is time for me to turn on something, anything, very loud in order to drown out my upstairs neighbors loud crashing crying fight, as I embark on an adventure to try to learn the French language by Friday. Oh, Le Petit Prince, here I come.