Back on track – 5 things Friday

After 3 weeks off sick (yikes), I am finally back at my normal rhythm and trying to catch up on blogging.

One of the silver linings of being confined to a couch for a couple of weeks is that it offers a lot of time for watching costume dramas, I mean catching up on reading. Here are 5 awesome books that I read in the past month.

Non-fiction

  1. Ocean of Life – Callum Roberts

This is one of the most depressing and yet fascinating books I have read recently. To be short, humanity has ruined most of our oceans, and the destruction is likely to be irreversible. It will also have far-reaching effects on the way our world, diets, societies and environment functions in the future.

While ruining  the experience of eating sushi forever, the book also manages to be incredibly informative and interesting,  as it tells you a lot about science-y stuff interspersed with anthropological-cultural anecdotes.

Reading this book made me very enthusiastic about awesome initiatives like The Ocean Cleanup, but also panicky about whether anything we can do is too little too late and we are headed for inevitable doom in acidified, jellyfish-filled waters.

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So pretty, so sturdy, will replace so many other species.(credit)

2. Cooked – Michael Pollan

I loved The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which focused on the origins and impact of what and how we (well, them Americans) eat. Cooked is also brilliant, a bit more light exploration of how we prepare food, and what it tells us about homo sapiens as a species, but also human societies. He follows three ways of preparing food: barbecue/roasting; cooking with water; and fermenting.

Besides offering inspirational cooking tips (I shall never again rush frying onions!), Pollan doesn’t shy away from exploring the power dynamics intrinsic in cooking. He takes an intelligent and sensitive approach to issues of gender and race, and does not shy away from discussing these and his own limitations in reflecting on them. So unexpectedly precious in a Western, middle-aged male food writer!

3. Tiny beautiful things – Cheryl Strayed

Agony aunt columns are some of my favourite things on the internet. I spend more hours than I care to admit reading Dear Prudence, Carolyn Hax and Dan Savage, hoping one day to be able to give similarly empathetic, sensitive and punchy advice to people who ask for it.

My enthusiasm for this book may have been enhanced by the fact that I read it while tripping on fever and medications. However, I have re-visited some parts since to recommend to others, and ordered two copies for friends, and it still holds as a kick-ass advice book. Cheryl Strayed is an awesome lady! I particularly admire her way of making herself as vulnerable to her readers as the writers of the letters. She also gives awesome suggestions based in compassion, mindfulness and hope.

Just to give you an example:

tackle

Fiction

4. A Little Life – Hanya Yanahigara

This book is one that I read because I am trying to read more from authors that are not white men. It was also a gut punching, absorbing drama about how some traumas cannot be made right, no matter the love that one receives. Although not always super credible (full of very very rich and successful people), the story just draws you in and you find yourself in despair over the sorrows of the characters. Melodramatic, but so, so good.

5. A Place of Greater Safety – Hilary Mantel

Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, about the age of Henry VIII, had rocked my world. Mantel is a ridiculously good historical fiction writer, and you actually sense how much precise research has gone into the books. I have to admit, I use her books also to brush up my knowledge of history, which is quite fragmented and faded. A Place of Greater Safety is about the French Revolution and it has taught me a ton about the Revolution that I had forgotten since high school.

Here are some marginally appropriate comics from the brilliant brilliant Kate Beaton. (more here)

dantonsm

 

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