What a dear little marvel of a book this is! The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is an insightful meditation on a variety of topics such as solitude, liWhat a dear little marvel of a book this is! The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating is an insightful meditation on a variety of topics such as solitude, limitations, and the healing power of child-like wonder. I found it while looking for books about snails, and it was also the perfect introduction to the fascinating world of our little gastropod neighbors. ...more
I picked up Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud looking for a perspective on the 16th century Chinese Novel Journey to the West, but I learned so muchI picked up Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud looking for a perspective on the 16th century Chinese Novel Journey to the West, but I learned so much more from this fascinating book. I learned that Xuanzang was pretty much the opposite of his character in the novel, which was written nearly a thousand years after his actual journey to the West. I learned about what it was like to grow up in communist China. I learned about oases on the Silk Road both currently and in the 7th century BCE. I learned why Xuanzang is considered a hero in India, and perhaps why he's not considered to be such a big deal in modern China. I also learned that Buddhism itself can be seen as pretty subversive, which helps explain why it's fallen in and out of favor with various political units through the centuries. I loved reading every page of this thought-provoking book.
Hit by a Farm is both hilarious and harrowing, and altogether hard to put down. (Just don't read it in a place where you'll get in trouble for laughiHit by a Farm is both hilarious and harrowing, and altogether hard to put down. (Just don't read it in a place where you'll get in trouble for laughing ...) The only problem with this book is that it's too short! I hope she writes a sequel. ...more
I realize that people are going to think that I'm some kind of heathen, but I didn't like Walden. Thoreau's narration sounded way too self-righteous tI realize that people are going to think that I'm some kind of heathen, but I didn't like Walden. Thoreau's narration sounded way too self-righteous to me. I was expecting a humble exploration of coexistence with nature, and that's not what this book is. It's way too preachy for my taste. ...more
I enjoyed the adventures with the chickens, but I could not relate to her "diminished resources."
I realize that the author found her circumstances beI enjoyed the adventures with the chickens, but I could not relate to her "diminished resources."
I realize that the author found her circumstances bewildering and stressful, but I think she should be grateful that she had the resources to buy a house, renovate it, and not work full time. That sounds like a blessing to me.
If I could afford to renovate my house, that would be a cause for celebration, not rumination on how poor I am. Also, if I wasn't working full time, I'd probably have time to build lots of chicken coops. ...more
I <3 Michael Pollan's books. They all tend to be informative, and spawn plenty of introspection. This one was even laugh-out-loud funny at times!
MI <3 Michael Pollan's books. They all tend to be informative, and spawn plenty of introspection. This one was even laugh-out-loud funny at times!
My one quibble with this particular book that I didn't have with The Omnivore's Dilemma or In Defense of Food is that it's a bit ... patronizing at times. He starts out with a problem and then carefully leads the reader through the steps to the conclusion he came to, in a tone that implies it's the best solution. Eh, it's a small criticism compared to the overall delight I experienced while reading it. ...more
I enjoyed this quirky collection of essays about culture clashes and things that people take for granted. When I read the statement by Firoozeh's dadI enjoyed this quirky collection of essays about culture clashes and things that people take for granted. When I read the statement by Firoozeh's dad that America is "the land of friendly people and clean bathrooms," I thought, "Uh, the clean bathroom part is noteworthy? ... Oh my. You know, they are really nice to have."
It's rarely laugh-out-loud funny in a sidesplitting way, but every chapter is infused with light-hearted humor - even the couple of chapters that could have easily been portrayed as tragic and even terrifying.
I'm in awe of Firoozeh's family for moving halfway across the world and thriving. The story of Firoozeh's dad's persistence in getting to the US to begin with is quite amazing. ...more
I Want One Thing is a reflective autobiography by a woman whom among other amazing things, pursued a doctorate in psychology in her 70s.
Ironically, she discovered the "one thing" early in her life, yet wasn't able to consistently remain in the state of wanting one thing. She speaks of wanting the "one thing" as a practice, a state of mind that one has to consciously choose. The alternative is to let our possibly maladapted personalities run on autopilot, usually to no good result.
The mostly autobiographical first three quarters of the book were riveting. In the last quarter, she tries to draw together the concepts behind examples from her life. Parts of this last quarter get a bit murky and difficult to read.
Her ideas about a universal (and universally connected) self underlying artifacts of personality and experience dovetailed nicely with The Wisdom of the Enneagram, which I'm also currently reading. ...more
I ordered this book as soon as I read the review in The New York Times, and I'm glad that I did. Pearson's examination of the personal and social origI ordered this book as soon as I read the review in The New York Times, and I'm glad that I did. Pearson's examination of the personal and social origins of anxiety is thought-provoking and her wry humor is at times laugh-out-loud funny.
She mentions that other cultures aren't as plagued by anxiety as Canada and the US, and speculates about why that may be. She also thinks that as our rapidly changing world continues to invalidate our expectations, anxiety sometimes results because we can't get a handle on what's going on. For some people, "getting a handle on what's going on" appears to not be a big deal. (It seems to help if people have strong social networks to support them.) For others ... well, hence the book and the increase in anxiety disorder diagnoses. :)
Pearson had a terrible experience with anti-anxiety pharmaceuticals and favors a philosophical + cognitive behavioral approach for dispelling her own demons. ...more
My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen is a treasure that relates historical recipes in their cultural context. In this book, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's autobiograMy Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen is a treasure that relates historical recipes in their cultural context. In this book, Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's autobiography is interwoven with the recpies she recalls from her youth in China.
I'm a pescetarian, so unfortunately I won't be trying a majority of the recipes Ms. Lo records. Despite the self-imposed limits of my particular diet, I greatly enjoyed reading about Lo's culinary inheritance, including the peculiarities of Lo's maternal grandmother's diet. Lo's eponymous grandmother chose to eat vegetarian diets under certain circumstances such as the arrival of the New Year or the occasion to host Buddhist nuns for dinner.
One of the particular bits of Chinese dietary trivia that I learned from this book is that Lo's grandmother reports that to make up for the absence of chives, leeks, and shallots in the devout Buddhist's diet, Buddha declared that "vegetarians" are allowed to eat clams, mussels, and oysters (p 59). Even more interesting is the notion that the french fry-munching US may ultimately owe its preference for ketchup to China! Lo notes that "on the island of Amoy, there is a mixture of fish essence and soy sauce called keh chap, that is believed to have been a precursor" (p 251).
Lo attempts to preserve her native language for her English-speaking audience by transliterating and then translating aphorisms that she heard from her grandmother and other family members. She also thoughtfully includes a chapter that is a glossary of ingredients - descriptions and care instructions, along with the Chinese characters for each ingredient. (She notes that if it comes down to it, the reader can always show the characters to an Asian grocer, and hopefully the grocer will be able to point out the exact product.)
Lo also attempts to bridge the technological gap between the cookware of her grandmother's day and modern cookware in the West. (I had not even thought about the differences in wok-making and ovens in the past fifty years, but I'm glad she brought it up!)
As just an autobiography, My Grandmother's Chinese Kitchen definitely stirs the reader's interest.
As for the recipes themselves ... I'll find out soon!...more