Monday, July 30, 2012

Book reviews: Julia, StoryCorp and The Street

I've been reading more than I thought because I am a few books behind on my reviews :)

My Life in France by Julia Child

By now, you know I love food and travel and this book combined those two quite well. This was written in autobiographical style by Child's nephew (or great-nephew?) after many conversations together and re-reading many of her letters. It starts with her move to France for her husband's government job in Paris. Prior to this move, which happened in her late 30s, she had never been interested in food or cooking. As she begins her foray into French food her tastes evolve and she ends up going to Le Cordon Bleu for culinary school. The books goes on to describe writing her cookbook and the success that follows. I really enjoyed learning about how she wrote the cookbook - she was extremely scientific and would toy with recipes for days and days making many batches until she got it perfect. I wasn't necessarily impressed with her as a human being as she doesn't strike me as someone cozy or nice. But overall I would definitely recommend this if you love reading about good food and/or traveling.

Listening Is an Act of Love (forward by Dave Isay)

This book came about with the Story Corps project. Dave Isay started Story Corp in 2003 with the the goal of providing all Americans with the opportunity to have their stories recorded and preserved. They have booths set up in various locations around the country, like Grand Central Station, and a few traveling booths. Its usually set up with one individual interviewing someone they know (family or friend) with a booth facilitator there as well. This book is 48 portions of these amazing stories transcribed. They book is divided into several categories ranging from love, the journey to September 11 and Hurricane Katrina. It is such an excellent read. The stories are really quick to read and this would be great to read to read on a road trip, as long as you're okay with crying in front of the person you're with. 
The Street Sweeper by Elliot Perlman

This is the best book I've read this year. And I've read some good ones. Perlman writes a story about Lamont Williams, an African American, just released from prison beginning work as a janitor at Sloan Memorial Kettering Cancer Center. There he accidentally befriends an Auschwitz survivor and is duly impacted. We also learn about Adam Zignelik, a historian without research on the verge of losing his job at Columbia. Their stories run parallel in New York City as they both deal with issues of racism, personal worth, history and relationships. My only complaint is that the books ends way too quickly. Perlman wraps up this incredibly detailed 620 page story in the last 15 pages. I genuinely wanted it to keep going. More of Perlman's books are definitely on my book list now.

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