Monday, June 30, 2008

Book Club Discussion: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I really enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. For those of you who haven't read the book, it's a memoir-ish book about Kingsolver and her family's year of living strictly on food they'd grown in their own garden or, when it was something they couldn't produce themselve, bought locally.

For several years now I've wondered what it would be like if I had enough money to buy up some land and live off the earth. I have a grandmother and an aunt very much like Kingsolver. They had their own gardens and chickens and were very strict about what they would and would not eat. When I was younger I thought they were completely crazy, but now that I'm older I find myself wanting that way of life more and more. My parents also took up major gardening and animal raising after I'd moved out of the house and now I finally understand what they were trying to get to.

I really liked that Kingsolver's book was not just a memoir, but also had pertinent information that might sway someone to decide to try eating locally or growing their own food. The informational boxes by her husband and the short essays and recipes from her daughter were some of my favorite parts of the book.

I also enjoyed her defense of farmers. I've been a newspaper reporter in two small towns, both filled with farmland, which gave me a lot of opportunities to meet and interview farmers. I grew to really admire their way of life and their ability to keep at it despite the numerous factors standing in their way. To someone who has never been on a farm, nor talked to farmers, Kingsolver's descriptions may seem a little too poetic, but if you've ever been there you'd know that she's pretty dead on. She mentions this in the book too, after going on vacation to meet with some of her Amish friends, one of her city friends teases her about how she described the farm as if there were no worries just because the farmers had time to commune with nature.

In the book there were also some parts that really stressed me out (the chapters about squash and tomatoes covering every surface of the house while they desperately tried to store and consume them). I currently have five tomato plants to take care of and have already been giving dozens of them away (luckily I don't live in a rural place where everyone else is trying to do the same). I don't know how I would cope with 50 tomato plants' worth of tomatoes to deal with. This and learning to butcher animals would probably be the most difficult things for me if I decided to try living for a year off of food I produced myself. I think it would finally be the thing to push me into vegetarianism for real.

I think what I loved most about Kingsolver's book is that it made me feel normal. Sometimes I think my friends think I'm crazy, like the year I decided to learn how to make jam and proceeded to give it to everyone as Christmas gifts. Reading about making your own cheese or canning tomatoes makes me want to rush out and buy all of the tools necessary so I can do it too.

Also, I loved Kingsolver constantly bringing up her issues with California produce. Kingsolver lives in Virginia and refuses to buy California produce because of how far it would have had to have been trucked in order to reach her supermarket. To her it's upsetting that people think they can have produce all year round by trucking it in from far and wide. And I agree wholeheartedly. However, it's easy for me to agree because I happen to be one of the lucky thousands to live IN California. That means I get fresh local produce, and a wide variety of it too, almost year round. Reading this book made me realize just how lucky I am to have that.

So what did you think? Did you like the book? Did you hate it? Do you think it would be possible to live this way in a city? What parts of the book did you like/hate? What would be the hardest thing for you to give up if you decided to eat only local foods? (For me, it would be bananas or pineapple.)

P.S. You can read other reviews of this book at:
The Hidden Side of a Leaf
Living to Read

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Read-a-Thon Coverage Take 3

Update: 12:53 p.m., Sunday
I managed to read until almost 2 a.m., but I didn't have the energy to come back and check blogs anymore, nor to update mine. Sorry! I didn't mean to fall asleep either. I was reading and then thought I'd just rest my eyes for a second ... and didn't wake up until 7 a.m. I read again until 8:30, when I left for my long run. So, I think all together I did 15 hours of reading and 183 pages. Not such a great total, but at least I have something to beat for next year. Thanks everyone for cheering me on. The comments made my heart smile in a big way.

Update: 10:43 p.m.
I spent the last section of time reading one of my friend's blogs, which she just began posting on. It's a little risquee compared to my little book blog here, but she makes me laugh and I don't see here nearly enough so I'm glad I now have a connection to her through her writing. I also read more of David Sedaris' new book, which I've really enjoyed so far. I'm now up to 141 pages. Still kind of low, but definitely improving. My enthusiasm was wavering there for a bit, but I just took a shower to wake me up so I'm feeling refreshed and ready for the second half.

Update: 8 p.m. (hour 11)
Still reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.
I managed to read 28 pages in the last couple of hours, which puts me at 105 pages for the day. I feel like this is really low compared to other readers. I never thought I read this slowly.

Anyhow, since my last update I also ate dinner and went for a walk as part of one of the mini-challenges. The walk was really nice, and Coco was really happy to have gotten out of the house. I haven't taken her running at all this week because she had a limp earlier in the week. She was walking fine today so I'm assuming her paw is healed. There was a nice breeze despite the 90-degree weather. And the best part was that I could finally see the sky! Here in Sacramento we've had a depressing haze of wildfire smoke suffocating us for nearly a week so I was glad to see blue skies again. Also, it smelled like jasmine outside. To me it's the smell of summer in California. I loved it. Oh, and the crows were cawing overhead. I think they were coming in to roost. Anyway, it was a nice break, so I was grateful for that challenge, and little Coco was as excited as ever to go for a walk. OK then, back to reading...

Update: 5:24 p.m. (hour 8?)
Still reading the same books, mostly Animal, Vegetable, Miracle this hour.
I'm up to 77 pages now (yes, another hour with only 11 pages read).
On the plus side I've managed to wean myself of checking the computer and reading all the blogs instead of focusing on my books so that's good, right? However, all this reading about food has gotten me hungry. I made banana-oatmeal muffins during a recent break (really, it doesn't take that long and I read while I was waiting for them to bake). Now my house smells delicious and I had a yummy snack before dinner. Next hour I want to read more than 11 pages and then I'm going to stop for a bit to prepare and eat dinner with my boyfriend. I should be back around 8:30. See you then!

Update: 3:51 p.m. (going on to hour 7)
What I'm Reading: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Pages Read This Hour: 24
Total Pages Read: 66
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2
Minutes Spent Blogging (reading and writing): 65

Updated 2:48 p.m. (Hour 5 - almost 6)
What I'm reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
Pages read this hour: 11
Total pages read: 53
Books completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated in: 2
Minutes Spent blogging (total throughout read-a-thon, reading and writing): 60

This last 1.5 hours was spent reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I really like the chapter I just finished, which was about how Kingsolver learned to make her own cheese and why. I never realized how easy cheesemaking could be. I've always been interested in it, but was worried I'd make some fatal mistake. It seems though that you can make cheese just using milk from the carton and cheese cultures. Somehow I'd always though I'd have to get it directly from the cow, sans pasteurization (don't ask me why I thought this, considering pretty much everything in this country is pasteurized). Anyway, I was super excited and plan to get the book she recommended about cheesemaking. Also, reading about food made me hungry so I took a short break to pick some tomatoes and basil for a tomato-mozarella-basil salad. Yum!

Updated 1:11 p.m. (Hour4)
What I'm Reading: When You Are Engulfed In Flames by David Sedaris and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
Pages Read This Hour: 31
Total Pages Read: 42
Books Completed: 0
Mini-Challenges Participated In: 2
Minutes Spent Blogging (reading and writing): 50

I was reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in the beginning of the day, but the pressure of the clock was making it difficult for me to concentrate so I decided to switch over to the new David Sedaris because the essay format would make it easier for me to break away if I wanted to check up on challenges and whatnot. Hopefully I'll get back to Kingsolver's book soon though.

In coming hours I will update this post unless a mini challenge comes up, in which case I'll write a new post.

Hope the rest of you are faring well!

24-hour Read-a-Thon Coverage Take 2

OK, so rules are made to be broken, right? I was just going to keep adding to my original post, but then I realized how LONG that would end up being, so now you're stuck with tons of posts from me on your Google Reader. I'm sorry. Please forgive me.

Moving on...

So far I have read 11 pages and 1 hour (unless reading blogs counts, then I'm up to almost two hours...) Woot!

And I have another suggestion for first-timers, or participants in general. And that suggestions is: Don't read from home OR get everyone out of the house before you the read-a-thon begins. My low page count this hour is partially due to my boyfriend's constant interruptions as he prepared to leave for the afternoon. "Sweetheart, have you seen my climbing shoes?" "Hey, are your climbing shoes 5.10s also? No, oh, then I guess these are mine." "Have you seen my keys anywhere?" "Hm. I think we'll be back in a couple of hours. I might get lunch while I'm out. Do you need anything?"

Gah! Do you not see the book?! The whole point of me forcing you to leave today was so I wouldn't be interrupted in my attempts to read for 24 hours! Now get going!

Um, OK then, on to mini-challenge number two, in which we were asked to read web comics and write about our reactions to them. I chose xkcd for my web comic. I used to read this a lot and am sorrily behind on it. I love this comic because it's clever and has a lot of funny observations about modern life and the tech generation. The guy is a mathemetician and a computer coder so some of his stuff I don't get, but, having a computer geek boyfriend, I do get most of the stuff even if only on a very basic level.

I spent about 20 minutes reading through the archives that I've missed and looking for a good one to post for you all. Here's the one I chose:

24-Hour Read-a-Thon Coverage

OK, so I'm a total slacker and missed the first hour of the read-a-thon. Somehow, even on this important day, I couldn't say no to the snooze button. But now I'm up, I'm ready and I'm reading! I'll be updating this blog every couple of hours with information on how many pages I've read and whatnot. I'll also be doing the mini-challenges and other fun stuff that goes along with the read-a-thon. FYI I will only be updating this specific post, rather than adding a new post every hour. This will keep from clogging your readers, but please do check back throughout the day. It will make my heart smile in a big way :-)

OK then, first mini-challenge:

Where are you reading from today? My boyfriend's parents' house in Galt, CA. I'm housesitting for them at the moment. I plan to read on the sundeck for the early morning hours (if the smoke/haze has cleared up), then move indoors to either the giant cushy bed or to the couch. I tend to move back and forth between the two as I see fit.

3 facts about me …
* I hate writing facts about me. It makes me nervous because I worry I'll either sound boring or I'll sound like I'm bragging.

* When I run only half of my face sweats and turns red. The other side stays cold and looks perfectly normal. I got made fun of in gym class A LOT. Now I kind of like the freakish nature of it.

* My favorite sport of all time is Rugby. I fell in love with it when I lived in Paris and I've never really recovered.

How many books do you have in your TBR pile for the next 24 hours?
I have 18 books and a copy of Time magazine in my stack right now. I think I'll finish the magazine and possibly three of the books. But maybe only two. I'm a pretty slow reader, but I'm already halfway through Animal, Vegetable, Miracle so I'll for sure finish that one.

Do you have any goals for the read-a-thon (i.e. number of books, number of pages, number of hours, or number of comments on blogs)?
My goal is to read at least 18 of the 24 hours.

Any advice for people doing this for the first time?
Um, this is my first time! My advice so far would be to NOT hit the snooze button. I'll add to this as the day goes on and I learn more about what it means to be a read-a-thon-er.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Winner! And Reminders

The drawing for All About Lulu is now closed, as I've selected the winner using AND the winner is (drum roll please) Allessandra. Please send me your mailing address to bexadler at yahoo dot com and I'll get the book out to you as soon as possible.

Also, everyone remember we'll be having our book club discussion about Animal, Vegetable, Miracle on June 30 (Monday). As always I'll post my review that day and I hope to hear what you all thought of the book. In addition, if you've already reviewed the book, you can leave a comment on that post and I'll include a link to your review.

One last thing: I've already mentioned it, but since it's almost here, I thought I'd bring up the 24-hour Read-a-thon again. We'll be raising money for Reading Is Fundamental and you can contribute by pledging to donate a set amount for each hour or page I read ($1 an hour for instance or 10 cents a page) or you can just donate any amount you wish (I think lowest donation amount is $10). Go here for more information on donating to the organization. And I'll be updating my blog throughout the day on Saturday with information on where I stand. The read-a-thon starts at 9 a.m. Saturday and ends 9 a.m. Sunday. Something tells me I'll be doing a lot of sleeping on Sunday....

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Yesterday I went to my first public library event, which was a Banned Book Club meeting about In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. For weeks I'd been worried I'd be the only person to show up to this event, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were more than 20 people who attended, taking up all the chairs around the table. The discussion was lively and interesting and I really enjoyed it. One of the best things about deciding to take part in this group is it's forcing me to read books I would have never read otherwise (next month we're reading Lolita!).

In Cold Blood is a book I wouldn't normally have chosen because a) I'm afraid of everything and this for sure sounded like a scary topic and b) it's a true crime story, which makes it even more frightening in my mind. However, I'm glad I read it. I learned a lot about Truman Capote (sorry, wasn't one of the billions who went to see the movie about him a few years back), including that he was the first true crime author. As a journalist, I also really liked seeing how he was able to put all of his interviews together into a flowing story (and a super long one at that!).

In Cold Blood is about two criminals who think they've found a good gig when one of their inmates tells them about a farm job he used to have. The inmate tells them that the farmer spends $10,000 a week to run his business and the two assume the farmer, Mr. Clutter, keeps all that cash in a safe on his property. Once the two are released from jail, they drive 300 miles to the Clutter farm with the intentions of robbing the place and leaving no witnesses. When they get there they learn what anyone from the Clutter's town knows about the family: Mr. Clutter never has any cash on him. The locals joke that he'd write you a check for $1.50 because he never carries that much cash on him. Unfortunately, the lack of cash doesn't save the family and all 4 family members are shot in the head. It was a crime that rocked the nation in 1959 because it happened in such a small town, where people were presumably more safe than in big cities.

Capote interviews everyone in the town and the two killers after they've been caught and he paints a vivid picture of the town and these criminals. You almost begin to feel sorry for the two criminals who had such hard lives up to this point. But once they describe the murder to detectives (more than halfway through the book), you can't help but be horrified by them. Up until this point you only had a vague idea of what happened based on what police thought. Hearing it straight from the murderers was difficult because they didn't seem to understand that they'd done anything wrong. One of them, Perry Smith, even says, "I thought he was a very nice, gentle man. I thought so right up until I slit his throat."

I read this book at home alone at night and ended up not being able to sleep because it gave me the creepies. It was really well written and I recommend it, but if you're a scaredy cat like me, make sure someone is home with you so you can discuss it and get out all those worries.

This book was also reviewed by:
Nymeth at Things Mean a Lot
A bookworm's reviews
The Book Tiger

P.S. I'm still holding a giveaway for All About Lulu by Jonathan Evison. Leave a comment here before Wednesday!

Friday, June 20, 2008

July Book Club and a Giveaway

I know I'm early to announce the July book club book, but it's because I want to give away a copy of the book so one of you doesn't have to buy it. The book is All About Lulu by Jonathan Evison, a book I've been looking forward to for months. Evison is a co-blogger on The Nervous Breakdown with me (and was featured there on Tuesday with an interview by Brad Listi) and I've been a huge fan of his work. Anyway, I was going to pick his book for our August book club since it wasn't scheduled to come out until July 21, BUT I went to pre-order my copy a few days ago and saw that it's already been released. Part of why I chose this book is because Evison is a new writer (this is his debut novel) and I know how hard it can be to get the word out about a book, but I also chose it because he's a really, really good (and funny) writer. Plus, how can you not love that cover?

OK then, here's a bit about the book from Publisher's Weekly:

Evison's debut—of love and loss, growing up, throwing up and moving on—is a stunner. William Miller Jr. is a scrawny loner whose mother dies of cancer when he is seven years old,leaving him an awkward vegetarian with an ominously macho father and idiot twin brothers in mid-1970s Santa Monica. William's father, Big Bill, remarries a grief counselor named Willow, and Will spends the following decades in love with Louisa (Lulu, as she prefers to be called), his new stepsister. They are close throughout adolescence, but after a summer at cheerleading camp, Lulu returns home distant and hostile, leaving Will to pine for her in solitary desperation. Will finally appears to be on the path to normalcy in the early 1990s when he lucks into a radio talk-show hosting gig, but the stroke of good fortune is short-lived, as he discovers things about Lulu he'd rather not know. Evison provides readers a viciously funny and deeply felt portrayal of a blended family and one man's thwarted longing.

Don't forget to read this month's book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which we will be discussing on June 30. And please leave a comment below for a chance to win a copy of Evison's All About Lulu. I'll be choosing a winner on June 25, so be sure to leave a comment before then. Also, check out Jonathan Evison's Web site for his tour dates (he may be coming to Sacramento!).

The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden

I just finished The Richest Season by Maryann McFadden. It was a review copy I received Monday from LibraryThing. The book was released June 10, but had been sold previously as a self-published novel by the author.

At first I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy it, but I have to say I really loved this book. At first I thought it was going to be a typical chick lit midlife crisis type book, but it really surprised me. The character development in the book was wonderful and left me feeling more optimistic than a lot of books I've read recently have made me feel.

The Richest Season is about a middle-aged corporate wife, Joanna, who runs away from her seemingly perfect life after she realizes her husband has been promoted again, meaning another move to a new community and even less time together. She goes to a small beach town she discovered years ago and takes a job caring for a dying elderly woman. We watch as Joanna becomes more independent and her relationship with Grace, the elderly woman, grows. And we see her enter into her first new relationship in 25 years. What a strange thing to think about.

In the meantime, her husband loses his high-powered job due to a merger and ends up doing a little soul searching of his own. Although I know I was supposed to really feel for Joanna, I found myself looking more forward to the passages about her husband, Paul. I loved watching him change and realize that Joanna had been right about his job consuming their lives. In the beginning he was so unlikeable, but by the end I was really rooting for him.

Also, there was a whole side part about Joanna taking part in sea turtle conservation as part of trying to keep busy in her new surroundings. I couldn't help but get all nostalgic about my own sea turtle volunteer experience when I was reading those sections. I loved how it was interwoven into the story and it really made my heart smile when she saw the momma turtle laying eggs one night.

Anyway, it's not a perfect book, but I'm really glad I read it. It definitely made me feel better after all of the other books I've been reading lately.

This book has also been reviewed by:
Jill at Breaking the Spine

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The 24-hour Read-a-thon!

Most book bloggers out there have already heard of Dewey's read-a-thon and the amazing prizes she's offering. But for those of you non-bloggers out there, I thought I'd fill you in. See, there's this fab 24-hour read-a-thon going on next weekend (begins June 28 at 9 a.m.), which will benefit Reading is Fundamental, an organization that works toward improving children's literacy rates. I've got a stack of about 14 books to choose from so finding something to read won't be the hard part of reading for a full 24 hours. I think the hard part will be staying awake and keeping my eyes from burning.

Also, I don't know if this counts, but I'm totally hoping it does, I'm going to download a book for my iPod so I don't have to forgo doing my long run on Saturday. I'll be able to "read" and run at the same time! How awesome is that? Yeah, I'm super happy I thought of it. Perhaps I'll also use this method for eating too. My goal is going to be to read for at least 18 hours of the read-a-thon. If I get really into a great book I'll for sure be able to make it through the wee hours of the night, but if it's something awful I won't be able to give in to the temptation of sleep.

Um, so if you want to participate, you can find the rules here. And if reading really isn't your thing, but you want to contribute to the cause you can donate here. Also, if you do donate, can you let me know either here on the comment board or by email (bexadler at yahoo dot com) so I can track how much we raise? That would be awesome, thanks!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Two Pollan Books Down, how many to go?

Michael Pollan's newest book, In Defense of Food, is highly readable and informative. He talks about "nutritionism," a sort of religious belief in the benefits of eating food for nutritional benefits rather than for pleasure or cultural reasons. He asserts that this belief is what has led Americans astray in their eating because we regard non-food items as being healthier than food. What this means is that we think non-fat yogurt, made using about 50 different ingredients, including Pollan's nemesis, High Fructose Corn Syrup, is better for us than plain old yogurt made using milk. We eat items because they scream at us that they are healthy: "Low Cholesterol!" "Low fat!" "No Trans Fat!" "Contains Omega 3's!" while in reality these foods aren't even food. They're food-like substances.

In the book Pollan points out the pitfalls of eating this way, most notably that nutritionists aren't sure what really is good for us and what is not. They choose, seemingly haphazardly, a nutrtional element to play either devil or angel and we just jump on board. Pollan suggests instead that we ignore all this hullabaloo and go back to traditional food cultures (choose any: French, Japanese, Greek, Spanish, it doesn't matter) where food is eaten for enjoyment, not just fuel. If you buy fresh produce and make your own food at home there can be no mistaking a food substitute for real food.

Earlier in the year I read Pollan's previous book, The Omnivore's Dilemma. While The Omnivore's Dilemma was incredibly interesting and a very in-depth look at how our food is produced and how far from traditional food cultures we have come, I felt that In Defense of Food was more readable. The Omnivore's Dilemma took me about three weeks to get through (and really, it could have been three books in their own right) and made me seriously want to change my eating habits. The only problem was there wasn't a "how-to" guide in the end. I knew I should cut out processed foods, but how far does that rule go?

Well, the solution was given in In Defense of Food, which, by the way, only took me two days to read. In the last section Pollan gives a common sense approach to helping his readers figure out what is food and how it should be eaten. Really, the information provided was so apparent, I couldn't believe it has taken me so long to figure it out, or that I needed someone to tell me how to do it. But that, Pollan would say, is the problem with our current food situation in America.

A couple of the many solutions Pollan has to choosing what to eat and how to eat it:

"Avoid food products containing inredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable, c) more than five in number, or that include d) high fructose corn syrup."

"Do all your eating at a table. No, your desk is not a table."

He also goes into detail about many of these points and explains why they work and gives several examples of foods that should be looked at more carefully (bread is one of them). I know many people are sick of hearing about the food problem in America and about the latest diet trend, but I think Pollan takes a different tack and has something really, really important to say. As I was reading this my boyfriend looked over and said, "Not another book about food!" I know, I know.

But really, I think it's an important issue in our culture. I've lived in France twice and both times I lost considerable amounts of weight (the first time, I lost 45 pounds in only 8 months without even trying. I can't even lose A pound here). There is something fishy going on in our food system and I think it's important for us to take notice and take "subversive measures" (aka buying fresh produce from real farmers instead of big stores and stop eating processed foods) to reverse the current system. Reading books like Pollan's will help us to do that.

OK, enough of my soap box rant. If you're into food and interested in health I highly suggest reading Pollan's book. That is all.

Omnivore's Dilemma has been reviewed on:
Living to Read

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Personal Challenge for 2009

For awhile now I've had a goal of reading all of the Pulitzer Prize-winning books. I've already been able to cross about 10 of them off my list (some only because I read them in high school). But I haven't been really vigilant about this goal. It was something I started late last year and have held onto fleetingly as of late. But after I saw the Pulitzer Project, a blog with multiple contributors attempting to read all of the Pulitzer winners and review them, I decided this is something I really, really want to do.

However, I don't think I'll take part in the Pulitzer Project because 1) I'm a little late in the game and 2) I have so much other reading to do and, well, I'm already not doing too hot on my book challenges for this year.

So, what I've decided to do instead is to alter my personal challenge for next year. Instead of arbitrarily picking a number (52 books by the end of the year, or one book a week) I plan to work my way down the list of Pulitzer Prize winners by the end of 2009, starting from newest to oldest, if possible. I may get started this year though just to help me along the way, seeing as there are something like 91 Pulitzer Prize-winning books (in fiction) out there (and another one will be added next year!). Also, if I have read one of the books too long ago and can't remember the main gyst of the plot I'm going to make myself re-read it. I don't want to feel like I'm cheating. Let's say if it's been more than two years since I read the book I'll read it again.

OK then, just wanted to put that down somewhere so I won't forget when it gets to be New Year's Resolution time.

P.S. Here's the wiki link to the list of Pulitzer winners (for fiction).

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Book Craving: A La Cart

I'd never heard of Hillary Carlip until yesterday when I was perusing The Book Pirate's blog. He did a review of Carlip's second book, A la Cart: The Secret Lives of Grocery Shoppers, and now I'm obsessed with finding a copy of this for my future coffee table.

A la Cart is essentially Carlip's interpretation of discarded grocery lists she's been collecting for years. Based on what the people were planning to buy she guess who they were and what their lives were like. Not only does she describe these people, but she dresses up as them as she goes to the store to buy their items. On the front cover are just three of the photos of her at the grocery store. If the rest are this good, I can't wait to see the whole book. For more info on this book, check out the review on The Book Pirate.

Also, in case you missed it, I'm having my second giveaway. If you click here and leave a comment by June 15 you'll be entered to win a free signed copy of The Nonrunner's Marathon Guide for Women.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The (Non)Runner's Marathon Guide for Women

I picked up The (Non)Runner's Marathon Guide for Women last month after finishing Claire Kowalchik's book about running for women (you can read the review here). I wanted a running book with which I could better relate. I'm a super slow runner and didn't even make it onto any of the charts in Kowalchik's book, which was a little defeating for me. So when I read about Dais' book, which tracks her struggle through training for a marathon, while also giving great tips for people who have never really run before, or haven't run much at least.

I loved this book because I related so well with the things Dais talked about. She talked about feeling discouraged because every time she went out for a run she would end up right back where she started. She also describes her first trip to the running store where she learned about the importance of shoe fit, spandex and bodyglide (which I had never heard of until reading this book). She includes some great stretches, as well as a 20-week training schedule for both a marathon and a half marathon. She also leaves space for journaling, and for answering questions she poses, such as "Why are you running this marathon?" and "What was life like before you began training and after"?

An example before and after from her book:

Before: Do the rainbow of fruit flavors in Skittles count?
After: Pills the size of marshmallows washed down with one of my thirty-two gallons of water.

For me, the best parts of this book were the personal journal entries from when Dais was training for her own marathon. Dais' perspective is so true to how I think most new runners feel that it's hard not to laugh out loud (I couldn't read this book in public because I kept snorting at her writing). Here's a sample:

"This weekend my little calendar o' runnin' said that I had to run sixteen miles. Is it me or is this number just getting ridiculous? Sixteen miles. What possible reason could one ever have for running sixteen miles? After about Mile 10, just call a cab and save yourself a lot of effort. Hell, call me. I'll give you a lift. Believe me, it's just not worth it. One fun fact about sixteen miles - that's about how far away hell is. I know you'd think it'd be farther away, at least as far as Fresno. But you'd be wrong. Actually, I think I hit hell around mile 14, so it's an even shorter trip."

If you're new to running, or even if you've been running a long time, I highly suggest picking up Dais' book because it'll remind you of what it was like when you started and why you run. It'll also remind you that you're not the only one who suffers for running. If you are training for a marathon though, I suggest picking up some other books as well. Dais' book is great for moral support, but I think there are some others out there that would add a little more technical support, unless of course you have your own personal trainer.

P.S. I'm giving away a signed copy of this book over at my running blog, so if you're interested in reading it, hop on over there and leave a comment on the interview I did with Dawn Dais. Thanks!

This book has also been reviewed by:
Laura at Reading Reflections

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

David Sedaris' New Book

I meant to post this yesterday but this temp job is killing me. Tomorrow's the last day though (thank God).

Anyway, for you other David Sedaris fans out there, I guess you won't need me to tell you, but his new book came out yesterday! I'm super excited for two reasons:

1. It's a new book by an author I already LOVE.

2. A new book means book tours! Sedaris will be in San Francisco on June 26 and I WILL be there! Anyone who wants to join me is more than welcome to carpool (if you're from Sactown).

OK then, I'm off to stare admiringly at this book because I will likely be waiting a long, long time before it's available at my library.

Monday, June 2, 2008


So, this weekend I started training for a half marathon. The running part didn't go so well, as my legs were already sore from all the running I'd done earlier in the week. But none of that mattered when I found a ton of free books at my running spot, which is around one of the public libraries here. Someone had left three boxes of books near the book drop off place with "Give away" written on the sides.

Now, I know they probably had intended to donate them to the library, but because the library is closed on Sundays and they didn't feel like coming back, well, they just left them there for anyone in the general public to browse through. I probably shouldn't have taken any, but I just couldn't resist. And anyway, I figured I can just donate them to the library myself once I've finished with them (I do this a lot anyway). Guilt problem: taken care of.

None of the books I took were actually on my TBR list, but once I saw them as "FREE" they suddenly became much more interesting. There were about fifty books in the three boxes; I only found five I felt like I'd read in any reasonable amount of time. So here they are:

First up: The Legacy of Luna by Julia Butterfly Hill. I've heard of Julia Butterfly Hill before, and even read a few excerpts by and about her, and have always been fascinated by her. Now I get to read the story. Apparently, and I could be wrong because this is one of those books that actually doesn't give any information on the cover other than what other people think of the book, this book is about Julia when she lived in a tree to keep it from being cut down. It's about the redwoods, their importance, and the struggle to protect them. I am SO looking forward to this one.

Next is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I've never been inclined to read this book, but like I said, it was free. I'm sure it's got to be good with all the acclaim it's gotten. Then again, there are plenty of top sellers that I've hated. Hm. Well, that's why I picked it up. I'll have to form my own opinion.

Then there's Isabel Allende's Paula. The only book I've ever read by Allende was The House of the Spirits back in middle school. I don't remember much about it, except that I loved it. For some reason though, I never picked up another of her books. Now is my chance. This one is the story of Allende's family, written when her daughter Paula fell into a coma. It's supposed to be reminiscent of The House of Spirits so I think I'll enjoy it.

I also found a cookbook: 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes by Sue Spitler. I don't have many cookbooks and I've been trying to cut back on my meat intake (which was already minimal) so this was a no-brainer. This is probably the only one that won't make it back to the library. I promise to donate something else in its place though! Wow, I didn't realize I'd have such a guilt complex about this.

And the last one is Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. I've never read anything by McDermott, but her name is thrown around a lot so I thought I'd pick this one up just to see what all the fuss is about. I'm ashamed to admit I didn't even look at the book description before deciding on this one. At least it will be a surprise, right?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

June Book Club Selection: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

For our book club selection this month, I chose Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingslover. I've seen tons of great reviews about this book so I really wanted to read it. I know some of you have already read it, but I figured you wouldn't mind since it meant not having to add one more book to your TBR list for this month. I'll be sure to link to any reviews of it at the book club discussion on June 30, but also please feel free to stop by and give your two cents about what you thought of the book.

For those of you who haven't read this book, here's a short description from the publisher (sorry, I'm being lazy today):

Bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver returns with her first nonfiction narrative that will open your eyes in a hundred new ways to an old truth: You are what you eat.

"As the U.S. population made an unprecedented mad dash for the Sun Belt, one carload of us paddled against the tide, heading for the Promised Land where water falls from the sky and green stuff grows all around. We were about to begin the adventure of realigning our lives with our food chain.

"Naturally, our first stop was to buy junk food and fossil fuel. . . ."

Hang on for the ride: With characteristic poetry and pluck, Barbara Kingsolver and her family sweep readers along on their journey away from the industrial-food pipeline to a rural life in which they vow to buy only food raised in their own neighborhood, grow it themselves, or learn to live without it. Their good-humored search yields surprising discoveries about turkey sex life and overly zealous zucchini plants, en route to a food culture that's better for the neighborhood and also better on the table. Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.

"This is the story of a year in which we made every attempt to feed ourselves animals and vegetables whose provenance we really knew . . . and of how our family was changed by our first year of deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air."