Book-A-Day Update

As happens to most people, my resolution to read a book every day in the year 2013 came to an end in February. By mid-February I was running approximately 4 days behind schedule, but quickly fell impossibly further behind when the next several books on my list were close to 1,000 pages each. Needless to say,  books of that length would have been problematic for my goal even if I did not have a full-time job.

Over the next few weeks I’ll post highlights of the books I’ve read as part of this goal and since then, and I’ll also post some new recipes I’ve been developing. Now that I’m not spending every waking moment (and then some) scrambling to read books on pace, I’ll have time to write more reviews of what I am reading and cooking up in the kitchen.

I am really looking forward to getting back to the blogging. In the meantime, I hope you’ve got some lovely spring weather to enjoy! Cheerio!

Book-A-Day: January 16-31

Here is the rest of January’s books:

1/16 -17: Freckles (by Gene Stratton-Porter) This and A Girl of the Limberlost remind me of my childhood and Indiana. I grew up playing outside in our vegetable garden and in Holcombe Gardens on Butler University’s campus, and although my childhood was in a very different era than the setting of these books, I never fail to appreciate the attention paid to the natural characteristics of the land and animal life in that part of the country. These books are a celebration of progress and self-improvement through dedication to the land/nature which is a concept I respect and strive to achieve,  but progress and preservation of nature are and historically have been considered incongruous concepts. I recommend it for young adults and adult readers who are interested in early twentieth century regional fiction, or any mid-level or better reader interested in nature.

1/18: After Milk and Song (by Erin Mullikin) This is another South Carolina Poetry Initiative chapbook winner, but it happens to be authored by one of my classmates at Clemson. It appears to be currently unavailable, but if you get the chance to read a copy of it, Mullikin’s poems delve deeply into the loss of a parent and reflection on how pieces of them and the lessons they taught you live on. They are beautifully done, and I highly recommend watching out for more works to come by her.

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Book -A-Day: January 1-15

Okay, so I have set a (kind of) crazy goal for myself: reading a book each day in 2013. That is on top of working full time, trying to cook healthy meals regularly, stay in shape, maintaining a clean and organized household, keeping up with this blog, and still having a social life…like I said, crazy. I thought posting about it here would offer a little more accountability and it would provide a huge amount of information about books! Therefore, I am going to post a list of all the books I read in January with a brief review of each and a link to the book on Amazon in case you want to pick up a copy for yourself.

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The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

Erica Bauermeister’s The School of Essential Ingredients is a beautifully written story of friendship, revelation and redemption achieved through food. The scene is that of a cooking class, and each lesson is tied to a character’s personal story and unique difficulties which, through cooking with certain ingredients and eating certain foods, are overcome.

Without wanting to give too much away, I must say that the book as a whole is delightful, but it is the opening chapter that moved this book into my top 10 favorites list. This chapter tells the story of a mother who has buried herself in books to hide from grief and who “enjoys every part of a book…[but] collected exquisite phrases and complicated rhythms, descriptions that undulated across a page like cake batter pouring in to a pan, [and] read aloud to put the words in the air.” I do not think this is the normal way of reading, but sometimes I truly do read this way. I am often bursting to share turns of phrase or searching through books that I read years ago trying to find a single paragraph that moved me so profoundly that I return to it time and again. The title character of this chapter, Lillian, is a young girl who learns to cook through trial and error, gains confidence from observation, and learns to cook based on instinct and to the needs of the person (or people) she is feeding, her mother. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say I am able to cook in the same way that Lillian learns to, I think most home cooks try very hard to make good food that people enjoy eating and that is certainly true of me.

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Little Bee by Chris Cleave

I recently considered joining a book club until realizing the book of the month was Little Bee. I have read this novel cover to cover, always hoping that there would be some point and some value to the story, but now that I have re-read the book and listened to the audio book I can conclusively say there is nothing but sadness and depression ahead of you if you read this book.

I don’t often come across books that I cannot appreciate for one reason or another, but this one takes the cake. I will say this: the novel is well written and quite emotional. However, in the same breath I feel obliged to say that being well written and emotional but offering nothing but sadness is a bad combination. There is no salvation for the young girl fleeing Nigerian civil war, the British family that the finds falls apart because of knowing her, and the end is violent in an ambiguous way that leaves the reader unsatisfied and in need of hugs and comfort food.

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The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan

I’m always looking for unusual forms of narration, and The Lover’s Dictionary has proved to be quite a delightful twist from the norm in that regard. By distilling a relationship in to it’s most defining and/or memorable moments and finding precisely the right word with which each moment could be summarized is one of the most interesting perspectives on relationships that I have ever encountered. Add to this that the words are organized alphabetically, beginning with “abyss” and ending with “zenith,” hitting on each letter in between, and the fact that it creates a narrative at all is beyond impressive.

The narrative is not necessarily chronological is it arcs from the first date all the way to the breaking point(s) of the relationship, and yet, David Levithan skillfully captured a wide spectrum of emotions without actually concluding the relationship, and without ever actually providing closure of any sort. It is so brief, and yet I could spend many hours pouring over the pages with the Oxford English Dictionary pulled up trying to research the root, history, past use, and current complexity of meanings with each word. Piecing together the many ways in which the word is rightfully assigned to each moment. In addition to that, however, what I found most compelling about this carefully crafted narrative is that it reads, in many ways, like a poem, yet it also reads like a conversation you might have over drinks with a friend who just needs to get some stuff off his chest about his relationship.

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Paper Cutting

Since graduating, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands and this blog is partially a result of that free time. The other way I’ve filled my free time is to undertake the new hobby of making things with a letterpress. To compliment this skill I’ve also decided to try my hand at paper cutting. I’ve seen some really amazing paper cutting work over the years and really appreciate the time and skill necessary to make things like this; unfortunately, I don’t do it justice…at least not yet anyway.

However, one of the many inspirations that I’ve sought to help me endure my many mistakes in this undertaking has been the book Paper Cutting which is aptly subtitled “Contemporary Artists, Timeless Craft.” There is some truly awe-inspiring artwork contained within these pages. Some of my favorites include Su Blackwell’s “altered book” paper cutting. It’s stunning what she can accomplish with the pages of a book…but I do have mixed feelings about abusing books in such a manner. I am also blown away by Hina Aoyama’s incredibly delicate lace-like designs that bring together nature and fantastical images. I doubt my skill will ever be anywhere near her’s, but I’ve decided to start collecting old lace to try to mimic the patterns there. How neat would it be to overlay paper cut into lace designs on top of the letterpress cards I’m making? I’m really excited about this, so now I just need to steady my hands and dig deep for patience.

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Codex: The Journal of Typography

So my interest in books should come as no surprise, but having spent a very long time being told without explanation that I must type everything formal in Times New Roman font size 11 or 12 (depending on the teacher/professor), I have added to my list of interests: typography. The jump from reading and staring at certain types all day to learning more about the design of types is not a big one, but sometimes it feels like a completely different world. As I am slowly picking up supplies and learning how to use my homemade letterpress, I am becoming increasingly fascinated by the design of letters and how those designs can function in so many vastly different ways depending on the medium in which they are used.

To help me explore this new (and yet very old) world of typography, I ordered issue one of Codex: The Journal of Typography. There is a blog, a link to the publisher’s original blog ( which is one of the best typography resources available in any medium, and a place to order issues of Codex which is a quarterly journal. I’m beginning to suspect that I am becoming a quarterly-junky of sorts. Waiting on Wilder, Lucky Peach, and now Codex too is going to result in me getting way too many journals all at the same time! I suspect I’ll have to start scheduling my days off around when these are arriving!

What I wanted to point out about Codex though, is that it takes the art of writing to a whole new level. Instead of the traditional black and white print versus color electronic media, this blends the traditional black and white color scheme of print and bolder graphics with colors. Just flipping through this journal gives me a sense of electronic media and print media interacting in a great way. Instead of letting the art of type fall to the wayside as certain texts become the standard fare and the internet makes the creation of text a fun past time instead of a skill that people use to make a living, this joins the two and discusses the future of typography with a respectful nod to its history.

Also, I absolutely love the way they designed the cover for issue one. It’s beautiful and classic, while looking sharp and contemporary all the same. I highly recommend taking a look at the blogs if not ordering a copy for yourself here. I hope you enjoy!

Wilder Quarterly

The best thing about gardening (if you’re doing it right) is that it creates beauty, self sufficiency, and food all at the same time! Wilder Quarterly is an awesome new quarterly about gardening in a contemporary and often urban setting. The themes of fermentation that I’ve seen in the Lucky Peach quarterly, food magazines, and recent literary journals also made it in to the fall issue of Wilder. While Wilder has a bunch of unique things to say and share with the world, it also is keeping up with the latest movements in the food world which makes this quarterly so well balanced with my interests that it is amazing.

I read through the first issue as soon as it came and loved it. Unfortunately it was as close to winter as we get in South Carolina so it was no time to be running outside to start a garden, but I was, none-the-less, quite inspired. What’s even better is that this quarterly donates part of their subscription price to the Fresh Air Fund, helping to provide a free summer camp to children from underprivileged communities. How can you go wrong with that?!

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"Blackout" and "All Clear" by Connie Willis

While wondering around the bookstore with my boyfriend, I found myself in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy section. This is not normally where I dwell in bookstores, but occasionally I peruse sections other than Cookbooks, Fiction/Literature, and Poetry and I am so glad this was one of those occasions. I was struck by the planes dropping bombs and St. Paul’s spire clouded in smoke pictured on the cover of Blackout. When I read “Oxford 2060 is a chaotic place, with scores of time-traveling historians being send to the past” and “World War II” on the back cover, I was sold. I almost would have left at that, but I was so excited about it that my boyfriend, thank goodness, asked if there were any more books in the series. Low and behold, there was the Hugo and Nebula award-winning All Clear too.

I try to keep my obsession with historical fiction under wraps because, honestly, most of it isn’t that good…but I am consoled by telling myself that having a degree in English literature just gives me a more critical sense of high and low literature. Either way, now that the cats out of the bag, I am prepared to gush about these two books. They are phenomenal. It has been quite a while since I found myself so absorbed with a book that I forget to cook dinner and forego sleep just so I can keep reading. I read just about everything I can get my hands on, but this was quite a treat.

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