Food! · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way | by Molly Birnbaum

Season to Taste: How I Lost My Sense of Smell and Found My Way by Molly Birnbaum
(Ecco, 2011, 320 pages)

I saw this on the “New Book” bookshelf at my library and I was intrigued.  Molly had been planning on going to culinary school and becoming a chef upon graduating from college.  After graduating she picked up a job working in an upscale restaurant so she could gain some experience and learn the ropes before heading to the Culinary Institute of America.  One day Molly went out for a run and she didn’t see a car as it barreled toward her.  Molly’s accident left her pretty banged up, needing surgery and physical therapy for quite some time.  What Molly didn’t realize was that when she banged her head on the windshield she also lost her sense of smell.  Her culinary dreams quickly seemed to go up in smoke…

This memoir tells the story of Molly’s journey as she works diligently to reclaim her sense of smell while also going to various professionals around the world to learn more about how anosmia (the term for losing your sense of smell) works and what, if anything, can truly be done to treat it.  She does a great job portraying the affects of anosmia.  The sense of smell is something we are still learning about – it’s an area that is understood far less than one would imagine.  You can lose your sense of smell any number of ways and there’s no known “cure” for getting it back.  Fortunately, Molly regained her sense of smell over time.  She felt comfortable cooking again, but it took a while.  She really helps you appreciate the role that smell plays in your life and how not having that sense effectively leaves you in a void, a world completely different from all those around you.

Season to Taste was less of a food memoir than I expected, but I found it very interesting.  It brought to light this issue that I otherwise never would have thought or known about.  Next on my list is The Man Who Couldn’t Eat, about someone who lost their sense of taste.  Either of those experiences sounds horrifying, but clearly I’m intrigued.

Design · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

The Right Color | by Eve Ashcraft

The Right Color: Finding the Perfect Palate for Every Room in Your Home
by Eve Ashcraft with Heather Smith MacIsaac
(Artisan, 2011, 224 pages)

I enjoyed reading The Right Color a lot more than I’d anticipated.  I read about it in Library Journal and it sounded interesting, especially since I’ve been trying to think of how I can make changes around my place.  Ashcraft is a color specialist and this book is designed to help you understand how different colors work in different spaces while also encouraging you to play around and make your space your own.  I found this book to be very motivating.  So much so that my husband is now officially scared for what may or may not be on the agenda for this summer 😉

Ashcraft is very good at presenting things in a clear manner – she helps you understand why certain colors affect the same space differently while also helping you feel comfortable with the idea of branching outside of your “whites and neutrals” comfort zone.  I got a lot of really great ideas that I’m eager to try.  I’d certainly recommend this book if you’re looking to paint in the near future or if you’re thinking about redecorating but aren’t sure where to start.  There are a lot of tips and tricks in here that you’ll find helpful.  Like I said, it gets you motivated, which is a great feeling when you finish a book.

Fiction · In the Library · Jean R · Mystery · Quick Read!

Cursed | by Carol Higgins Clark

Cursed by Carol Higgins Clark
(Scribner, 2009, 256 pages)

Cursed: A Regan Reilly Mystery by Carol Higgins Clark is the fictional story of a hairdresser named Abigail Feeney who believes that she was born cursed. Abigail was born on Friday the 13th and has 13 letters in her name. Things just don’t seem to go Abigail’s way. Abigail’s latest problem is that she lent $100,000.00 to her boyfriend who then vanished with her money. Abigail asks her friend, Regan Reilly, to help her find the missing boyfriend and money.

Regan Reilly is the heroine of Carol Higgins Clark’s Regan Reilly mystery series. Regan is a private investigator who lives in New York with her husband who works for the NYPD. All the titles in the Regan Reilly series are single words. The first title in the series is Decked.

Carol Higgins Clark is the daughter of the famous mystery writer, Mary Higgins Clark. Carol Higgins Clark and Mary Higgins Clark have written 5 holiday suspense novels together. Carol Higgins Clark’s novels are fast-paced with a sense of humor. I recommend Cursed for anyone looking for something quick and light to read.

Food! · Humor · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Travel

The Sweet Life in Paris | by David Lebovitz

The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – City
by David Leboviz
(Broadway, 2009, 304 pages)

I really enjoyed reading this book!  David Lebovitz is the former pastry chef from Chez Panisse (Alice Waters’s restaurant in California) and is currently a pastry chef living in Paris.  Lebovitz fell in love with Paris when he first visited in the 1980s and moved there to fulfill his dream of eventually living in the City of Lights.  This is arguably more of a travelogue than a food memoir, which is what I initially anticipated.  Each chapter is more of a vignette looking at how experiences in France are decidedly different from what David initially thought or expected.  We see how he adapts and works to acclimate himself to the city he now calls home.  Each chapter ends with a recipe (or 4), all of which I’m eager to try.  He explains his recipes in a very clear, accessible manner which is greatly appreciated 🙂

There’s a lot of humor in this book and I found myself comparing Lebovitz with David Sedaris a little (who also writes about his experiences living in France – check out When You are Engulfed in Flames).  I think this would be a fun book to read before you take a trip to Paris because you definitely get insight into the different cultural expectations and you can learn from David’s mistakes.  I’ll definitely be picking up some of Lebovitz’s cookbooks based on what I saw here.

Angie BK · Fiction · In the Library · Quick Read!

The Flight of Gemma Hardy | by Margot Livesy

The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesy
(Harper, 2012, 447 pages)

I picked up this book on a whim, and when I read that it was a new take on Jane Eyre, I couldn’t resist reading it! Set in the 1950s and 1960s, this book follows the life of Gemma Hardy, an orphan who lives with her uncle until he dies. It is easy to see the main themes of Jane Eyre throughout this book. However, these themes have different twists to them to fit the more contemporary time. It is fun to compare Gemma to Jane and see how the characters have the same resolve to make their life better. It is a quick and enjoyable read! I would highly recommend it to fans of Jane Eyre.

Biography · Celebrities · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Quick Read! · Ying L

And Nothing But the Truthiness | by Lisa Rogak

And Nothing But the Truthiness: The Rise (and Further Rise) of Stephen Colbert
by Lisa Rogak
(Thomas Dunne Books, 2011, 293 pages)

Truthiness, is that even a word? If you are asking this question, you are not alone. It has been added to the 2010 third edition of the New Oxford American Dictionary.  Stephen Colbert coined this word during the pilot episode of his political satire program “The Colbert Report” on October 17, 2005.

truthiness  n. informal. the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true.
– ORIGIN early 19th cent. (in the sense ‘truthfulness’): coined in the modern sense by US humorist Stephen Colbert (1964–).

This is an unauthorized biography of Stephen Colbert, the comedian and TV host. The book takes readers from his childhood through his appearance at the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on October 30, 2010. Rogak assembled an impressive amount of interviews, articles, quotes and performances to show how Colbert became the pop culture icon he is today. It’s interesting to peek through the information presented in the book and try to understand the real Colbert.

Colbert was born in Washington, D.C. in 1964 and grew up in South Carolina, the youngest of eleven children in an Irish Catholic family. Colbert’s interest in acting didn’t start off until later in high school. He attended Northwestern University as a drama major. His first professional performance job was with Second City Chicago. The chapter on his reporter/writer days at “The Daily Show” reveals the tremendous work involved to produce the show – very informative and entertaining.  Some famous names pop up here and there, such as Jon Stewart, Steve Carell and Amy Sedaris. I can’t help but mention the Colbert family’s tie to St. Louis.  Colbert’s father, James Colbert, was a physician and an educator. He was the dean of the medical school of St. Louis University for eight years.  When he accepted the job at thirty-two years of age, he was the youngest person to be dean of a medical school at the time.

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot about Stephen Colbert.  It’s a quick and fun read.  If you are a Colbert fan and/or are interested in celebrities in general, get a hold of this book.

Andrew S · Biography · In the Library · Non-Fiction · Philosophy

The Pursuits of Philosophy: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of David Hume | by Annette C. Baier

The Pursuits of Philosophy: An Introduction to the Life and Thought of David Hume 
by Annette C. Baier
(Harvard University Press, 2011, 176 pages)

This is an insightful and accessible biographical and intellectual introduction to David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher. The format is very engaging and not only gives the reader summaries of Hume’s various writings, but it also grants an opportunity to sample one of his shorter works. Each chapter begins with an extended section from Hume’s autobiographical essay, My Own Life, and the chapters then follow the course that Hume set. The opening paragraphs of Hume’s essay recount his childhood and early life, and Baier’s first chapter deals with Hume’s family relations, education, and his early loss of religious faith. All seven chapters follow this format, dealing with Hume’s stints in France, the writing of his Treatise of Human Nature, his work as a historian and librarian, and various other aspects of his life.

Baier gives her readers critical analysis of Hume’s major works while offering an entertaining and insightful look at his personality. The format, which grounds literary analysis in the structure of a biographical narrative, helps to show how the events of Hume’s life and his personality influenced the shape and subjects of his literary career. Baier manages to do this without descending into psychological reductionism. She very much accomplishes the goal she sets for herself, which is “to bring life and works together, guided mainly by Hume’s own words” (132).

Baier is mainly interested in summarizing Hume’s work, and given this goal, coupled with the brevity of the work, there is not a lot by way of original contribution to Humean studies. However, she does have a specific take on Hume, and offers some of her thoughts about his contributions in the afterward. A particular point of interest for me was her commendation of Hume’s “true scepticism,” which involved “avoidance of advancing theses on controversial matters which are claimed as gospel truth, where we are asked just to trust his say-so” (143). Hume was a skeptic – regarding both the basic ability of humans to gain fully accurate knowledge of the world as well as the basic tenets of theism – but he never allowed his skepticism to become a simple reversal of the religious dogmatism that he rejected. I think that this Humean skepticism could serve as a good corrective to some of the vitriolic versions of religious skepticism prominent today, such as the “new atheism” of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Daniel Dennett.

For those who are approaching Hume for the first time, but would like a brief summary of his thought to direct their reading, this book would serve very well. If, like myself, the reader has tackled some of Hume’s philosophical works (for which he is best known) but would like to get a broader perspective on the other genres in which he wrote, it is also very enjoyable.