02 January 2016

2015 = 79

Goodreads tells me that I read 79 books in 2015. I know that included in that total are five books that I abandoned because I just couldn't finish them. Included in that sub-list were biographies of Jerome Robbins and Bruce Springsteen, and a book of Leonard Bernstein's letters.

I also read 8 cookbooks, and if you're into the Great British Baking Show, I highly recommend Cakes (one of the River Cottage handbooks) - it's like it could be the text book. I've also been reading books about baking bread, mostly because I acquired a sour dough starter last year, and it needs to be used. I'm pretty good at maintaining the mother, but I need some handholding and inspiration to make the starter into bread. Getting there, though.

Maggie Glezer's Artisan Baking has been the most useful, and is what helped me to that if-I-may-say-so-myself terrific loaf above. The Bien Cuit cookbook is GORGEOUS, inspiring and intimidating. All of the recipes require a big commitment of time, and some have a lot of weird ingredients. That said, I'll plunge in and try something. But in the meantime, I can enjoy the book as an art object - glossy black paint on the page ends makes it look almost like a lacquered box, and it has a lovely exposed binding. (I hope it holds up in the kitchen - it's almost too beautiful to handle with sticky, floury fingers.)

During the summer, I fell into a wormhole of Regency romances, by Georgette Heyer. They are delicious, and like eating peanuts, you kind of can't stop at one - I read seven:

Regency Buck
The Reluctant Widow
Cousin Kate

The Toll-Gate is still on my list but it's been out of the library every time I've checked.

Somehow, Georgette Heyer inspired me to re-read all of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries by Dorothy Sayers. If you're inclined, read them in order:

Whose Body? (1923)
Clouds of Witness (1926)
Unnatural Death (1927)
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club (1928)
Strong Poison (1931) *
Five Red Herrings (1931)
Have His Carcase (1932)
Murder Must Advertise (1933) *
The Nine Tailors (1934)
Gaudy Night (1935) *
Busman's Honeymoon (1937) *

If you only want to read a few, read the ones that have an asterisk next to them. I mean, they're all great, but some are more great than others.

In the department of utterly delightful, I loved My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She's Sorry. It's comic, anarchic, tragic, fantastic, eccentric, and wildly imaginative with a truly compelling voice.

In the graphic novel/memoir category, I read both of Alison Bechdel's books: Fun Home and Are You My Mother? Both stabbed me in the heart repeatedly, but two bits from Are You My Mother? stood out. First, when she asks "What's the main thing you learned from your mother?" and the answer is "That boys are more important than girls". I never asked my own mother that question, but I know that she thought her mother thought that girls were less than boys, that she was respected less than her brother.

And the teddy bear. I have that teddy, that very teddy. But when, because of old age and rough handling (but not by a dog), Teddy's felt palms and soles split open revealing the tightly packed wood shavings, my mother sewed on felt patches: my teddy was fixed, by my mother, and sits next to my bed atop the pile of unread books.

In non-fiction, I loved Skyfaring. It's a lovely and lyrical book about flying, by a pilot, chock full of history and physics and geography, rendered in a poetic and accessible manner.

And in the category of books that were far better than I expected, The Royal We was a delightful roman à clef about Wills and Kate. If your guilty pleasure is Go Fug Yourself's royalty coverage, you'll like it too.


Bibliomama said...

I go back and forth on biographies. I always find the information interesting, but I don't love reading them. In my book club this year we read a fictional book about Robert Louis Stevenson and his American wife and a biography of Alexander Graham Bell (at whose funeral RLS's poem was read, in one of a few interesting resonances). We were split between people who liked reading the biography and the fictional treatment more.

I love sourdough. I should investigate the whole sourdough starter thing. I love the "maintaining the mother" image.

Gaudy Night is now on my list because of a splendid and interest-piquing review in Jo Walton's What Makes This Book So Great.

Jocelyn said...

I would recommend to you, even though I'm not very far into the series of 'em, the QUEEN LUCIA books by E.F. Benson. The Go Fug Yourself girls recommended it in some post last summer, and it's hilarious--out of print, so I had to buy a used copy from somewhere. It smells like the '70s, which just adds to its appeal.