Saturday, July 5, 2008

Reading Review

Now that school's out, I've really been reading up a storm. As usual, it's mostly fluff. However, the first book I finished was Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. His premise in this book is that few of us are eating food anymore. Instead we eat food products. Just about everything we eat is processed, and if we took our great grandmother to the grocery store, she wouldn't recognize many of the products there. Since the dawn of "nutrition science" just after WWII most of our basic foods have become products, with preservatives, additives, enrichments, etc. His advice is to shop the perimeter of the store, read labels, join a CSA where possible, shop farmers' markets, grow your own where possible, and just be aware that most of what we put in our mouth is the PRODUCT of a food industry instead of the original food itself. He also argues that it really doesn't matter which "diet" you choose, as long as you eat in moderation, and you base your food choices on food , not product. Thus his opening words "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." This is the 2nd book of his I've read. Several years ago I read The Botany of Desire which discussed the relationship of 4 plants with humans - tulips, potatoes, marijuana, and apples. That was a fascinating read!

Next up on my finished list are two nostalgic re-reads: In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden, and Dawn's Early Light by Elswyth Thane. I read both of these in junir high/early high school and found them sitting forlornly on the library shelf while I was browsing. I had really enjoyed them as a teenager and wondered if they stood the test of time. In the House of Brede deals with a successful businesswoman who leaves her high-powered career to join the Benedictine nuns. Dawn's Early Light is set in colonial Virginia, just as the Revolution breaks out. Julian Day is a newly arrived from England and gradually becomes converted to American ideas. He befriends an abused child, Tibby Mawes, and their lives become intertwined. This is the first of a series of books featuring Julian and his descendants and I remember loving this book. It's still a pleasant read, but definitely not as gripping as it was when I was 14 or 15.

A very different type of read was Sacrifice by S.J. Bolton. This is a thriller/mystery set in the Shetland Islands, in Scotland. The mutilated body of a young woman is found buried in a field. Was she murdered as part of a cult sacrifice? The plot revolves around some ancient Shetland legends,and it was a very gripping read. The author created a very plausible world and evoked what felt like an authentic atmosphere. This was a first novel so I will be looking for a second one in the future.

Another "different" kind of book was historical fiction, set in colonial Massachusetts. This was called Bound by Sally Gunning. Alice is indentured as a house servant at age 7. All is well, til she turns 15 and is abused by a member of the household. How she handles the abuse and the consequences of her choices make up the rest of the novel. I was disappointed in the book, mostly because of the remoteness of the narration. I never felt a connection with any of the characters. The author did a good job of illustrating the institution of indentured servants.

Finally, pure fun! Aunt Dimity's Good Deed by Nancy Atherton. This isn't the first book in the series, but it's the first I've read. I thoroughly enjoyed this, and look forward to finding others in the series. Aunt Dimity is actually dead, and sends messages to her adopted niece through a journal. While the premise sounds silly, it's actually quite fun --- kind of a Ghost and Mrs. Muir feeling, if you remember the TV series with Hope Lange.

That's it for this installment. It's time for another trip to the library. And in case you think I just read fluff --- I also read Time magazine, US News and World Report, the daily paper, Sojourners magazine,
and a few other heavier things!

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