Stimulating Reads

I’m a ravenous reader with broad interests and a slavish devotion to the written word. If you’re looking for an interesting read, here are a few I recommend.

Nonfiction

The Dressmaker of Khair Khana: Five Sisters, One Remarkable Family, and the Woman Who Risked Everything to Keep Them Safe: Imagine you’re receiving your diploma to become a teacher and hours later you are forbidden from work, forced to cover yourself from head to toe under a muffling hajib, and even forbidden from leaving your house without a male family member as escort. This is the true story of Kamila Sidiqi from the moment the Taliban seized control of Kabul. In the face of these restrictions, a father and older brother forced to flee from Kabul and a dwindling bank account, Sidiqui started a dressmaking business, sold her wares to shops in violation of Taliban rules and saved her family and many other women in the process. Oh, and she was only 17 when she started. Told in an engaging narrative style this story is intriguing and inspiring.

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe: Peter Godwin returns to Zimbabwe hoping to witness the change in power after the election defeating Mugabe. As Mugabe refuses to leave office and sets out destroying the opposition, Godwin weaves his first-hand experience with the stories of those persons tortured and jailed by Mugabe’s goons and the story of a country destroyed by a corrupt rule whose only goal was personal power.

A Strange Stirring: The Feminine Mystique and American Women at the Dawn of the 1960sFor a child born in the ’70s this is an eye-opener as to the bad old days for women, the loss in momentum of the suffrage movement once the vote was obtained and the impact of Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique.” Filled with personal stories from readers of the Feminine Mystique, the book is a quick and short (186 pages) read. The part I found most fascinating, however, was the last eight pages, which discuss the “mystiques” having their way with us today. For those who work, the “career mystique” is all too familiar.

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses: by Seattle author Claire Dederer, this memoir cleverly braids yoga, Dederer’s childhood punctuated by a pseudo-divorce (her parents separated but stayed married), her life as a new mom and her family’s journey from Seattle to Boulder and back.  Favorite line: “We are all trying to buy local food in a convenience store and failing.”

The Commitment: Love, Sex, Marriage, and My Familyby Dan Savage. Love. Funny, poignant memoir braiding Dan Savage and his commitment to his partner Terry and their child and the politics revolving around gay marriage. Quote I wish America’s political squabblers, I mean “leaders”, would embrace stated by former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin speaking on the issue of gay marriage, “For a prime minister to use the powers of his office to explicitly deny rather than affirm a right  . . . would serve as a signal to all minorities that no longer can they look to the nation’s leader and to the nation’s Constitution for protection, for security, for the guarantee of their freedoms. We would risk becoming a country in which the defense of rights is weighed, calculated, and debated based on electoral and other considerations. That would set us back decades as a nation. It would be wrong for the minorities of this country.”  Welcome to the United States, Prime Minister.

Nonfiction Food

A Pig in Provence: Good Food and Simple Pleasures in the South of France a tasty memoir with recipes by James Beard award winning writer Georgeanne Brennan. For my review click here.

The Man Who Ate Everything: A series of essays, it reveals Steingarten as an enthusiastic amateur. His enthusiasm is infectious but it’s his dry wit that will have you laughing out loud. For my longer review click here. But here’s a small smackerel of Steingarten’s musings on “Greek Cuisine” to whet your appetite.

“The Greeks are really good at both pre-Socratic philosophy and white statues. They have not been good cooks since the fifth century B.C., when Siracusa on Sicily was the gastronomic capital of the world. Typical of modern-day Greek cuisine are feta cheese and retsina wine. Any country that pickles its cheese in brine and adulterates its national wine with pine pitch should order dinner at the local Chinese place and save its energies for other things. The British go to Greece just for the food, which says volumes to me. You would probably think twice before buying an Algerian or Russian television set. I thought for ten years before buying my last Greek meal.“

Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook: Anthony Bourdain’s latest is a series of vignettes, op-ed type pieces and musings about food, chefs, and the increasingly commercial aspect of chefs and chef stardom. His descriptions of duck, ortolan and other palate electrifiers will have you drooling. If you’ve already been hooked by Kitchen Confidential or Bourdain’s exploits on the Travel Channel in No Reservations this is a must read.

Fiction

Angelology: A Novel: This story raises fascinating questions about angels, demons and the differences in between, pulls you in and leaves you wanting more. For my more detailed review, click here.

Jane Austen Ruined My Life: A fun, light read. A must for any Jane Austen fan. For my more detailed review, click here.

The Help: A stunning debut novel about the divide between white women and the African-American women who take care of them. A page-turning story of dependence, bigotry and social change. The movie based on the book comes out this summer.

The Lacuna: A Novel: Barbara Kingsolver is a master storyteller. I don’t want to give anything away, so all I’ll say is this book puts a face to several dark parts of America’s history while keeping you spellbound.

Note: for your convenience all links lead to Amazon in case you want to read one of these books for yourself. If you buy through the link I may receive a few pennies in return, but the cost to you is the same as if you went to Amazon without the link.

Official legal disclosure: SarahKKohut/OC2Seattle is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.

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