Balancing painting, parenting, crafting and book loving one day at a time...

Balancing painting, parenting, crafting and book loving one day at a time...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Reading two books at once

Sometimes, I mean ESPECIALLY, when I have a book club deadline, I tend to be drawn to all the OTHER books I want to read.  I don't know about you, but I'm the kind of person that always gets too many books out of the library at once.  I have great ambitions, especially when I perceive that I have alot of time, like vacations, 3 days weekends, you get the picture. 

So for my winter vacation I brought 3 books.....and read exactly NONE.  Then in January, with my book club deadline looming, I started on Muriel Barbery's "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," a best-seller BTW.  Well, it is translated from the French and is a little slow going at first.  So when I was cruising a neighboring library I just happened to see a book I had put on reserve at my local library which I didn't expect to get for several months.  It was Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom," which has been all over the press lately as "the great American novel of our time."  So, I did what any self-respecting book lover would do......I snatched it up immediately.  Clocking in at 562 pages, it is quite a whopper of a book. 

I started it knowing full well that I REALLY should have been completing "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," which had stalled for me.  Unfortunately, "Freedom" was quite addictive.  My husband gently reminded me that I should really get back to "Hedgehog," and surreptitiously snatched up "Freedom" when I wasn't looking!  He had recently read "The Corrections," and had also heard all the press.  Next thing I know, I was racing to finish "Hedgehog" and worried that "Freedom" would be due back at the library and I wouldn't have finished it. 

Well, "Hedgehog" got better quickly, it is quite a philosophical read.  The two main characters are a 12 year old girl living at an exclusive apartment complex in Paris and the concierge, who tries hard to hide her intelligence and love for philosophy and Russian novels.  Enter a mysterious, wealthy  Japanese tenant and the story starts to gel.  Each character's story is told from their point of view with a bunch of chapters on philosophy thrown in.  The ending is quite unexpected, and very cinematic.  You can almost see it as a French art cinema piece. 

So, I finished and hoped my husband would finish "Freedom" quickly, as time was running out.  Thankfully, this library has a 3 week deadline, so I'm well on my way to making it before my deadline.

The third book I found at Anthropologie, an artsy clothing/housewares/cool things-you-can't-find-anywhere-else kind of place.  I got a gift certificate for Xmas.  Since most of the on sale clothing was in size XS, I decided to blow it on books and cool turquoise/sea foam bowls for my retro 1950's kitchen.  One of the books, "The Family Dinner:  Great Ways to Connect with your Kids, One Meal At a Time," looked too interesting to pass up.  The author is Laurie David, who just happens to be the ex-wife of Larry David of "The Larry David Show" fame. 

Basically it is a book about how to make family dinners fun again.  It has recipes, games you can play to keep the kids from running back to their screens, treaties on slow food, meatless Mondays and growing your own food.  It's not preachy, which is nice.  The author interviews all sorts of people, from Maya Angelou (the poet), to Mark Bittman, Mario Batali, Jamie Oliver & Alice Waters (the foodies & chefs), to Arianna Huffington and Lynne Rossetto Kasper (Huffington Post and NPR), to writer Robert Coles (The Spiritual Life of Children),Nora Ephron (film director of "Julie and Julia" and "When Harry Met Sally"), Jonathan Safran Foer, and Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma).  They even interview Robert Kennedy, Jr. to ask about how his family did family dinners (a most illuminating section!).  I highly recommend this book. 

We have already used it by having my 7 year old set the table decoratively with fun dishes I never use, and played games like "Stinky Pinky" and the "Once Upon a Time" game, where one person starts a story and you go around the table contributing to it.  We actually spent about a half an hour longer at the table laughing together that night, which is worth the price of the book in my opinion.


  1. Great ideas - now I want to read all those books! Someday. Today I'm going to try and find some interesting recipes from the magazine you sent and some cookbooks I have to spice up dinner - a challenge for my change-resistant kids....Jan

  2. I loved the hedgehog book and inhaled it in one sitting. I have the Freedom book but haven't started yet

  3. Nice post about the reality of a reader's life! I always take out way too many books, too. Have a stack of reading for the bathtub, i.e., doesn't matter if it gets wet. Can't use a kindle for that!