Shelf Life: Spring 2014

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Can you believe it’s that time again? Time to delve into My Shelf Life!

How can three months have passed so quickly? It’s serendipitous that these posts fall one for each season,  because I like starting them off with a weather/season recap, not that I don’t already talk about it enough.

If I had written this post last weekend I’d be giddy about the warmth and beautiful flowers starting to pop up here and there. But, alas, it’s in the 30s and the mountains are again coated in a blanket of snow. When will it end?!

I did manage to capture some of the prettiness before Tuesday’s storm struck.

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Let’s get right to it, shall we? I knew nothing could measure up to the number of books I read during the harsh winter, when I was hiding away inside, books with me under the covers. This pseudo-spring has been so different: job, trips, Etsy shop, dog time. But books are never far and I’ve read so many great ones since January. And here they are:

1. Mrs. Lincoln’s Rival, Jennifer Chiaverini

Things didn’t fare well with my last foray into Jennifer Chiaverini’s historical novels, but this one was lovely. It loosely follows the life of Kate Chase Sprague during her reign as the Belle of Washington. It was a rare exception to my new rule of not reading books set in the Civil War.

2. Allegiant, Veronica Roth

Trilogy complete! I’ve already waxed poetic on YA literature, but Roth’s Divergent series was really spectacular. I’d rank it above Twilight, but below Hunger Games. But I did like the last book better than how Hunger Games ended. No spoilers here. I’m begging Joe to read this so we can see the movies. No luck yet, though. Maybe this summer.

3. Happier at Home, Gretchen Rubin

A few years ago Gretchen Rubin wrote The Happiness Project, her own year-long mission to find happiness. I really liked its endorsement of self-awareness and that happiness really comes from within. This follow-up focuses on life at home, specifically Possessions, Marriage, Parenthood, Interior Design (Self), Time, Body, Family, Neighborhood, and Now. The reviews weren’t stellar, citing a rehash of her first book, but I did like the reminders and ideas on how to find happiness in the small things.

4. In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan

Call me crazy, but some of my favorite non-fiction is about food, including those written about the food industry. This one came highly recommended by several people and, I admit, it was interesting, but I just grew tired of it. I know what to eat (whether I eat it or not), but thanks to Mr. Pollan for stuffing the facts down my throat. It just didn’t taste that great.

5. August: Osage County, Tracy Letts

When I was packing for my brother’s wedding, I needed a book to take (I’m never without) and this had been sitting on my bedside table for a few weeks. It was small, so I threw it in my purse and, surprisingly, it was finished long before we landed in Dallas. I couldn’t put it down. Maybe not the best read before you spend a weekend with your family thanks to some heavy subject matter, but hilarious and perfectly written. Tracy captured so much of Oklahoma in his play. It was home, even within the dysfunctional. I can’t wait to see the movie.

6. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Theresa Anne Fowler

I have a not-so-healthy obsession with Hemingway, specifically the young, dashing, Paris-thriving Hemingway. The Party Years. Have you seen Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris? Awesome movie. More-awesome soundtrack. Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald were best of friends and this book explores Zelda’s side of the story, much like The Paris Wife showed Hadley Hemingway’s side. This book was SO good and I’m not just saying that because I love the Jazz Age and the collective of creative genius that found itself in Paris: Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, Cole Porter, Dorothy Parker. Other reading recommendations for this time: A Moveable Feast, The Sun Also Rises, The Torrents of Spring, The Paris Wife…It’s one non-stop party after another.

7. The Monuments Men, Robert M. Edsel

This choice was completely out of my comfort zone. Once they announced the movie, the storyline piqued my interest, but the movie itself got ho-hum reviews. I decided to go to the source and I’m so glad I did. I don’t typically like to read about war, but when it involved the valiant efforts to save a world’s worth of culture, it’s the best. I really found every man’s story fascinating. There are works of art I’ve seen in Europe that spent months underground, some buried in salt mines during the war. We lost so much in that war, but to think every artifact, every painting, every sculpture that was also at risk is even more staggering.  I plan on watching the movie at some point when it comes to the library. Here’s a passage that struck me:

More than sixty years after the death of Adolf Hitler, we still live in a world altered by his legacy. But the lasting impact of his bitter reign is best measured in more ephemeral ways: fifty million loved ones who never returned home from the war to rejoin their families or start one of their own; brilliant, creative contributions never made to our world because scientists, artists, and inventors lost their lives too early or were never born; cultures built over generations reduced to ashes and rubble because one human being judged groups of other human beings less worthy than his own.

Staggering, indeed.

8. Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

When I get a new issue of Entertainment Weekly, one of the first sections I turn to is the book reviews. Sometimes they feature interviews with famous or up-and-coming authors and one of the questions they always ask is “What’s the last book that made you laugh?” Turns out, many of them name this book. I think it was a summer fav from last year (tells you how with the times I am), but it had me laughing so hard from the very start. The ending gets a little weird, but it’s the beginning that steals the show.

9. Tender at the Bone, Ruth Reichl

I’ve already established that my Aunt and I love to eat, but we also both love to READ about eating. She even mailed me a box a few weeks ago filled with books written by food lovers. This was one of them and it was pure delight. Reichl used to be the editor of Gourmet magazine and is now the food critic for The New York Times. Best. Job. Ever. It was amazing to recount her childhood and how her many seized opportunities led her to where she is today. Remember Outliers? She’s a perfect example of Gladwell’s findings. She has two more books that I’m ready to now devour.

But, first! Here are the books next in line. I have a few very large, very daunting, very time-consuming books I need to conquer and it’s my summer goal to get through them. I’ve now put it in print, so it must be so. Help hold me accountable for these tomes:

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
A Feast for Crows – George R. R. Martin
The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt

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3 thoughts on “Shelf Life: Spring 2014

  1. Pingback: Friday Five: Dig It | hashtag marci

  2. Pingback: Shelf Life: Summer 2014 | hashtag marci

  3. Pingback: Shelf Life: Summer 2015 | hashtag marci

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