July 2012 // Books

Last month was a good reading month. Well, not in quantity necessarily, but certainly in quality. Every book I read was a recommend, and even though they were similar on the surface, all were very different. I’m actually excited to tell you about every single one of them, and when does that happen all in one month? Not a single stinker!

23 books down this year on my (new and improved!) goal of 50.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

I mentioned last month that we read this for book club and that I devoured it over one singular weekend. I do not recommend that you do that, at all. This is sort of a book to savor, I think, and having to rush through it bummed me out because it is epic in nature. Don’t you love a good true story of triumph over UNTHINKABLE obstacles. And that really sums up this entire book (cliche as it may sound) but what I enjoyed most was that the author didn’t dwell on the unthinkable.

These types of books have the potential to be chock full of description of bad things happening to good people and those books generally make me feel a little bummed. This was not a bummer at all — it was just realistic enough to have you gasping on occasion, but inspiring enough for you to be able to tolerate all the crappy stuff because you know it all works out in the end when you go into it. That said, the entire time I read about his time floating on the ocean I was SO FREAKING THIRSTY. And I felt sort of guilty that I could just hop up and grab a glass of water at my convenience. Hillenbrand paints a vivid and entertaining portrait of a man and of a particular point in history. It is a completely worthwhile read.

Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture by Andy Cohen

You had to know I would read this, what with my love of all things Bravo and specifically the Real Housewives of Everywhere. Guilty Pleasure with No Apologies. I love some good trash television! That said, I did not have high expectations of it. I wasn’t sure Andy Cohen’s life was going to be full of memoir filling information and so I picked it up just to see if there was any juicy Housewives gossip or interesting tales about running a network.

First of all — he is super interesting. Specifically, I found his career trajectory and experiences engaging. I didn’t realize his background was in news and so hearing about the decades where he was at the front lines of major world events was exciting. And he totally drops stories about famous people along the way in a perfect Celeb Autobiography way. Is there anything worse that cracking open the memoir of a famous person just to have them tell stories and keep everyone nameless. Hate that. None of that here.

The housewives scoop was not as large as I would have liked (but let’s be honest, I could read a whole book on that topic and I realize this was Cohen’s memoir, not a Housewives memoir) but what he did dish was very revealing in an indirect way. You definitely learn who he likes and dislikes and he gives insight into the way things are filmed and the varying personalities. This book was like candy you all, and I was so sad when it was over!

Dinner: A Love Story: It All Begins At The Family Table by Jenny Rosenstrach

I picked this up on a whim, as it was sitting in the “Lucky Day” section of my library. I mean, I’m a fan of dinner and you know I love a good food love story, so I thought it was worth picking up. Man, I love when I’m right.

This book is a mix of memoir and cookbook and commentary on how making dinner can help bring your family together. I’m a fan of this concept in general — food, and specifically the ritual of a meal, bringing people closer together — so I was not a hard sell on the overall concept. What I loved was how she showed what this looks like in various stages of life: as a young couple, with brand new babies, with toddlers who sit at the table. Dinner at every stage of life. She gave some good tips and inspiration for all of the phases and told some funny stories in the process.

A surprising benefit (to me at least) were the versatility of the recipes. I eat a pretty specific diet so I rarely go into a mainstream cookbook expecting to have a ton of takewaways, but there were a lot of recipes that I copied verbatim, and a lot that were easy to modify in a way that worked for my lifestyle. Total win! And beautifully photographed and designed. It felt like reading a really fun blog, but the paper version, which I guess is no surprise since she writes one.

It Starts With Food by Dallas and Melissa Hartwig

I have read A LOT of books about what to eat, let me tell you and not all of them are very valuable. Forgive me for putting what I’m about to say in giant letters but I would like to make sure I underscore this appropriately: THIS BOOK IS THE LEAST DOGMATIC, MOST PRACTICAL RESOURCE ON HOW TO EAT TO MAKE YOURSELF HEALTHIER, NO MATTER HOW YOU CURRENTLY EAT. If you identify as Paleo, great – you will love it. If you do not identify as Paleo, I think you will also love it, because all of the information just makes sense and is really quite easy to read.

Now, it’s not 100% perfect, I definitely think the reliance on cute analogies goes maybe a step too far; however, science can be hard to understand and it is helpful to do it in a way that is easily digestible, so I was glad they erred on the side of cutesy rather than extra science-y, personally. Regardless, this book WILL change your life. I really believe that. I wish I could gift it to everyone I know just so they could get a glimpse of what factors they actually can control with relatively little effort.

I’m not the type of person who thinks that everyone should be doing and eating exactly what I am, but I am someone who thinks that as a person, as an adult rather, you should be at least *have* a philosophy about the food you eat. And Dallas and Melissa impart a lot of wisdom that I think can help ANYONE clarify, perfect, or amend their food philosophies in a way that is not at all preachy. And lack of preachy when talking about food is pretty darn hard to do. And if you are someone who wonders if this book is worth buying if you read their site regularly — it is. Surely you can find all of the information they discuss somewhere on the internet (if not 100% on their site) but it is a convenient compendium and a great resource and completely worth investing the (less than) $20.



So…hooray for great books this month! Tell me what you read and what you thought.

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2 Responses to July 2012 // Books

  1. EMZ says:

    I just picked up “Dinner” yesterday and I really like it! When I first heard of the book, I figured it was for, you know, folks w kids. But I paged through it at the store, and really started to like the recipes (spiced shrimp, pork loin for company, salmon salad!) and the stories (tales of parents sharing the dinner prep, cooking while exhausted, finding new cookbook gems).

    Anyway, I like the stories, I like the food, I like the chill/positive attitude and I recommend anyone/everyone check out the book–even if you don’t think the title “speaks” to you.

  2. Tiffany says:

    Gaaahhh! I want to take vacation right now and read every one of these books! Thanks!