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155. Books Bought & Read, April 2017…

155. Books Bought & Read, April 2017…

April 2017 saw me buy 24 books and read a nice round 10 of them: a slowing down on all fronts, but then I am getting older, (I somehow turn 40 later this year, although thankfully I still feel 14 inside), and started the second of three jobs I will have by the time you read this, so I may have to focus on quality over quantity from now on.

As warned, my reading revolved primarily around food this month, as I led my first food tours around Greenwich Village, so the history of places and proteins were my principal literary diet this month. From fish to France and potatoes to Provence, I filled my mind with all sorts of food and drink based knowledge as well as virtual geographical exploration.

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Even when I wasn’t directly learning about where our fish comes from (and why it’s almost run out), or how apples were spread across the USA not for their fruit but for the liquor you could make from them, I was reading literature which revolved around food in the form of the International Booker Prize winning South Korean novella ‘The Vegetarian,’ which was dark, depressing and mysterious, a kind of Murakami novel without the jazz, or cats, or wells, or spark of optimism.

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The Last Interview series continued to surprise and educate with a series of snapshots of the life of Lou Reed at various points during his life. This blended seamlessly with John Strausberg’s encyclopaedic tome on Greenwich Village, whose streets I pound most days now, whilst feeding people pizza and ferreting out modern-day speakeasies or discovering the (still existent) studio where Jimi Hendrix recorded Electric Ladyland.

Michael Pollan continues to delight and surprise: I devoured his ‘Cookedlast month, and this month finally had a crack at one of his smaller offerings which had somehow never tempted me.

Despite its awful title, ‘The Botany of Desire‘ revealed the wonders of human interaction with apples, potatoes, tulips and marijuana. Trivia abounded, as did some useful information for my tours, (did you know apple seeds each create their own, completely different type of apple tree? You did? Liar!)

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Paul Greenberg’s ‘Four Fish‘ was equally fascinating, and followed the flow of salmon, tuna, cod and sea bass across space and time. The latter I learned is a bizarrely catch-all term for a huge number of creatures, including the Patagonian Toothfish which, unsurprisingly, sells much  better in restaurants when presented under its new name: Chilean sea bass!

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It was a blend of depressing history, (repetitive over-fishing and tragedy of the commons), with scientific genius, but I ended the book more confused than ever about which fish to eat/where to get them/whether to eat fish at all.

I’m going to go have some organic sprouted almond butter on ezekiel bread whilst I think about it…

 

Books Bought, April 2017

McSweeney’s No.3 (various)

Lists Of Note, Vol.II (ed.Sean Usher)

A Field Guide To Whiskey  (Hans Offringa)

His Bloody Project (Graeme Macrae Burnet)

Here I Am (Jonathan Safron Foer)

The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

The Best Of McSweeney’s (various)

The Last Bad Man (Miranda July)

I (Stephen Dixon)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

In Their Lives: great writers on great beatles songs (various)

A Little History Of Philosophy (Nigel Warburton)

The Undoing Project: a friendship that changed our mind (Michael Lewis)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Meeting (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

McSweeney’s No.49 (various)

The Metamorphosis (Franz Kafka)

Somewhere A Master (Elie Wiesel)

The Duel (Anton Chekov)

Collected Stories (Gabriel García Márquez)

Half A Creature From The Sea (David Almond)

When Strangers Meet: how people you don’t know can transform you (Kio Stark)

On Writing: a memoir of the craft (Stephen King)

Tasty: the art and science of what we eat (John McQuaid)

The Pine Tar Game: the kansas city royals, the new york yankees, and baseball’s most absurd and entertaining controversy (Filip Bondy)

 

Books Read, April 2017 (Recommended books in bold)

David Boring (Daniel Clowes)

The Last Interview (Lou Reed)

Coming In To Land: selected poems, 1975-2015 (Andrew Motion)

The Botany Of Desire: a plant’s-eye view of the world (Michael Pollan)

The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues – a history of greenwich village (John Strausbaugh)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Meeting (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Food And Wine Of France: eating & drinking from champagne to provence (Edward Behr)

Four Fish: the future of the last wild food (Paul Greenberg)

The Subway Chronicles (various)

The Vegetarian (Han Kang)

 

 

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

154. Books Bought & Read, March 2017…

March 2017 saw me pad my early-season stats with a bingo-esque 44 books bought, 26 read.

I was almost neck-and-neck in my buying:reading ratio last month until, perhaps getting a little cocky, I visited my old friend Chris at the Central Park Strand Stand for the first time in weeks, (walking away eight books heavier, mainly the colourful edition of Vonnegut novels I have decided to re-collect all of his novels in), and found a small treasure trove of food-based books during my last shift at the Housing Works charity bookstore where I am now struggling to find time to volunteer.

The reason for both of these last facts, (kitchen reading and lack of time), is that I found myself accidentally getting a new job this month. This weekend I became a fully trained tour guide for the oldest (and the best!) food tasting tour company in NYC, the wonderful Foods of New York Tours. If you want to be led around Greenwich Village and fed by me, both literally and informationally, get in touch!

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Until those tours, and a side project I have working at a small, plucky startup company called Apple kick in properly next month, I am reading as much as possible, from an advance copy on the science behind ‘Flavo(u)r’ (did you know foods can taste better depending on the colour or weight of the plate?) to the ever-informative Michael Pollan on how cooking makes us more human, (and apparently the Netflix series isn’t too bad, either).

I cleansed my palette with a surprisingly heavy diet of death…and comic books.

I found a two small collections of final thoughts from two perennial thought-provokers, (Oliver Sacks and Christopher Hitchens), and Neil Gaiman’s fun and fierce retelling of Norse Mythology kind of fit right in, as the gods go around killing whomsoever they want, (and often being killed themselves…for a while). It seems unfair that Neil Gaiman not only writes so wonderfully, but gets the most stunning covers: the 3D-feeling MjölnirHammer of Thor, making for a stunning image on the front of his latest collection of tales.

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I was excited to finally read some James Baldwin, after seeing the wonderful documentary on him last month, and both Ted Talk books lived up to previous expectations, especially the one on architecture, but the surprise find of the month came from a sliver of a book which caught my eye due to its author, (not that Andy Kaufman, it turned out…)

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‘All My Friends Are Superheroes’ was a wonderfully witty, wryly romantic, hipster-nerd romcom of a tale, and if you don’t feel like buying it you could probably read it in half an hour in the bookshop.

Just don’t tell them I sent you…

Books Bought, March 2017

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

Dig If You Will The Picture: funk, sex, god and genius in the music of prince (Ben Greenman) x2

Know This: today’s most interesting and important scientific ideas, discoveries, and developments (ed.John Brockman)

X: a highly specific, defiantly incomplete history of the early 21st century (Chuck Klosterman)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

H Is For Hawk (Helen MacDonald)

When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

The Schooldays Of Jesus (J.M.Coetzee)

Tears We Cannot Stop (Michael Eric Dyson)

Absolutely On Music (Haruki Murakami & Seiji Ozawa)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Midlife Crisis (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Hipster (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

Not My Father’s Son (Alan Cumming)

McSweeney’s No.5

Flash Boys (Michael Lewis)

Go Tell It On The Mountains (James Baldwin)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

How To Make Books (Esther K.Smith)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

Tales Of Ancient Egypt (Roger Lancelyn Green)

Universal: a guide to the cosmos (Brian Cox & Jeff Forshaw)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

Selected Poems (Edna St.Vincent Millay)

Revolution For Dummies: laughing through the arab spring (Bassem Youssef)

The Village: 400 years of beats and bohemians, radicals and rogues, a history of greenwich village (John Strasbaugh)

The Last Unicorn (Peter S.Beagle)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

The Essex Serpent (Sarah Perry)

The Food And Wine Of France: eating and drinking from champagne to provence (Edward Behr)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

In The Land Of Invented Languages: adventures in linguistic creativity, madness, and genius (Arika Okrent)

Home And Away: writing the beautiful game (Karl Ove Knausgaard & Fredrik Ekelund)

An Abbreviated Life (Ariel Leve)

Bluebeard (Kurt Vonnegut)

Mother Night (Kurt Vonnegut)

Sirens Of Titan (Kurt Vonnegut)

David Boring (Daniel Clowes)

The Last Interview (Lou Reed)

The New York Stories (John O’Hara)

You, Too, Could Write A Poem (David Orr)

111 Shops In New York That You Must Not Miss: unique finds and local treasures (Susan Lusk & Mark Gabor)

 

Books Read, March 2017 (Recommended books in bold)

Moving To Higher Ground: how jazz can change your life (Wynton Marsalis)

The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen: century – 1969 (Alan Moore & Kevin O’Neill)

Why We Work (Barry Schwartz)

Patience (Daniel Clowes)

The Art Of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

Gratitude (Oliver Sacks)

Mortality (Christopher Hitchens)

Norse Mythology (Neil Gaiman)

Peanuts: the art of charles m.schultz (ed.Chip Kidd)

The Adventures Of John Blake: mystery of the ghost ship (Philip Pullman & Fred Fordham)

Museum Legs: fatigue and hope in the face of art (Amy Whitaker)

Bat-Manga! the secret history of batman in japan (ed.Chip Kidd)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Midlife Crisis (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Fireside Grown-Up Guide To The Hipster (Jason Hazeley & Joel Morris)

The Future Of Architecture In 100 Buildings (Mark Kushner)

All My Friends Are Superheroes (Andrew Kaufman)

Islam: a short history (Karen Armstrong)

The Fire Next Time (James Baldwin)

Cooked: a natural history of transformation (Michael Pollan)

A Grief Observed (C.S.Lewis)

Make Trouble (John Waters)

The Global Novel: writing the world in the 21st century (Adam Kirsch)

Flavor: the science of our most neglected sense (Bob Holmes)

How To Talk To Girls At Parties (Neil Gaiman, Gabriel Bá & Fábio Moon)

Garlic And Sapphires: the secret life of a critic in disguise (Ruth Reichl)

The Beats: a graphic history (Harvey Pekar et al)

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in BOOKS

 

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109. ‘The Disappearing Spoon,’ Sam Kean…

109. ‘The Disappearing Spoon,’ Sam Kean…

The Disappearing Spoon: and other true tales from the periodic table,’ Sam Kean

More non-fiction fun and games with this highly readable book on the history of the periodic table, the elements, science, and stuff! Science never having been my strong point, I need well-written, interesting stories to get me interested in chemistry, physics and biology, and this book sure delivered!

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Having battery problems?

“In 1911 a Dutch-German scientist was cooling mercury with liquid -452ºF when the system lost all electrical resistance and became an ideal conductor. This would be sort of like cooling an iPod down to hundreds of degrees below zero and finding that the battery remained fully charged no matter how long or loud you played music, until infinity…”

Now that’s the kind of analogy I can understand!

Ever wondered where the periodic table actually came from? The stories of the personalities behind the scientific discoveries are often as interesting as the science itself:

“Like his Russian contemporary Dostoevsky – who wrote his entire novel The Gambler in three weeks to pay off desperate gambling debts – [Dmitri] Mendelev threw together his first table to meet a textbook publisher’s deadline…”

I had first learned about Nobel Prize winner Fritz Haber, in Michael Pollan’s highly influential ‘The Omnivore’s Dilemma.’ Haber had revolutionised farming by discovering how to produce fertiliser, and Wikipedia credits his discoveries as being  directly responsible for “the food production for half the world’s current population.” And yet only here do I learn:

“Humiliated at the huge reparations Germany had to pay the Allies, Haber spent six futile years trying to extract dissolved gold from the oceans, so that he could pay the reparations himself…”

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There’s gold in them thar…seas?…

Not all of the trivia and knowledge is science based: it is a wonderfully scattered trove of information, for example:

“Until well past 1900 Russia used a misaligned calendar that Julius Caesar’s astrologers had invented, leaving it weeks behind Europe and its modern Gregorian calendar. That lag explains why the ‘October Revolution’ that brought Vladimir Lenin and the Bolsheviks to power in 1917 actually occurred in November…”

Who knew!

Also, Dorothy apparently “…wore silver, not ruby, slipper” in the original novel of ‘The Wizard of Oz.’

On the changes in customs and tastes, (not to mention prices) over the years:

“…the minor Emperor Napoleon III reserved a prize set of aluminium cutlery for special guests at banquets. (Less favoured guests used gold knives and forks…)”

But ultimately, it was science which I learned from this highly readable, extremely educational book – this paragraph, taken from the start of the final chapter, sums up what kind of wonders I took away with me:

“As we know, 90 percent of particles in the universe are hydrogen, and the other 10 percent are helium. Everything else, including six million billion billion kilos of earth, is a cosmic rounding error…”

“Hurricane Season 2010″ by Maximilian Reuter, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

“Hurricane Season 2010″ by Maximilian Reuter, distributed by EGU under a Creative Commons licence.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2014 in BOOKS

 

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