Another year bites the dust! Woo-hoo! And so it's time for another end of the year round-up reading list. It's a shorter list than last year's, partly because of my move (from Brooklyn to Brooklyn, by way of Brooklyn), and partly because journal articles have cut into my book reading. Still, some good stuff out there. (Here's last year's list, if you're at all interested.) Bloggy goodness Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, Julie Powell Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper, Diablo Cody Fellow New Yorker Julie Powell decided to work her way through Julia Child's The Art of French Cooking in a year while writing about it on the Internet. Fellow Midwesterner Diablo Cody decided to work as a stripper and peep-show girl for a year while writing about it on the Internet. Both women cuss a lot. A lot a lot. Both, alas, are married. And both have written extremely entertaining books. (Yes, the Diablo Cody just came out. I got mine early. I heart NYC.) Food Mythology & Meatballs: A Greek Island Diary/Cookbook, Daniel Spoerri A Mediterranean Feast, Clifford Wright Maize and Grace: Africa's Encounter with a New World Crop, 1500-2000, James C. McCann Daniel Spoerri, the Romanian-born artist now resident in Italy, wrote about his year on the Greek island of Symi. The Internet not having been invented yet, his diary was first published in French, then in English as part of an avant-garde art project in 1970. But today it reads like a charming and digressive weblog, right down to Spoerri's anecdotes about cats and his insane landlord.
A Mediterranean Feast, on the other hand, is a tome. Inspired by the Annales historian Fernand Braudel, Wright has written about the foodways of the entire Mediterranean basin as deeply as one likely can in a lifetime. This presents a slight problem: Wright's footnote apparatus impresses me so much that his recipes intimidate me. (Especially his recipe for bisteeya.) Still, many thanks to Sir Francis Burdett and the New York City Math Teacher for this suggestion! Maize, outside of the New World, has largely not become a major grain for human consumption. Romania is a European exception; Africa is the world's exception. McCann gives answers where I didn't even know there were questions. I like that. New York February House: The Story of W.H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Jane and Paul Bowles, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee, under one roof in wartime America, Sherill Tippins There was also a trained chimp! The house was torn down to make way for the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, although after reading the book one wonders if the Health Department had a word in the process. Strangeness Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, Jane Ellen Harrison Themis: A Study of the Social Origins of Greek Religion, Jane Ellen Harrison Why read hundred-year-old scholarship? For the quality of the author's mind which it reveals. Harrison was the Edith Durham of Greek mythology, and her books still live and breathe. Too Soon To Tell (But I Think I Can Anyway) Terrestrial Ecosystems through Time, Anna K. Behrensmeyer et al. Capture Dynamics and Chaotic Motions in Celestial Mechanics, Edward Belbruno Okay, no one is ever going to read the Belbruno book for the prose style. But, damn, the new celestial mechanics is fascinating. Orbits like doodles on a Spirograph, that make the classical Hohmann "minimum-energy" transfer look spendthrift. Terrestrial Ecosystems through Time goes back to deep time (a running interest of mine), to the beginnings of life on land on Earth. I'm halfway through the Paleozoic, and my brain is crackling.