#MargaretAtwood #TheTestaments #SalmanRushdie #Quichotte #VincentMusi #TheYearOfTheDogs #ElizabethSchneider #WineForNormalPeople #StephenFry #Mythos
I usually just tell you about the cream of the crop cookbooks I review, but there were a few other books that came across my desk in the past year that are outstanding and totally giftable for the right person. Truly special pieces.
Need a gift for a lit lover, dog person, mythology fan, or wine enthusiast? I’ve got you!
The Man Booker award had a tie for first this year, and the subject matter sounded similar, so I was skeptical that the decision was agenda-driven and predetermined, a slot to be filled. I’m so happy to have been wrong about that. Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments is outstanding. I’d give it 6 stars if that were an option. The story is told through the point of view of female players in different roles, both the good guys and bad, and you can see how the horrific actions play out. It’s written as grittily and gracefully as Breaking Bad. I haven’t read it, but some of the characters sound similar to my husband’s description of the Nazis in Daniel Goldhagen’s Hitler’s Willing Executioners. Note that the link is for the audio version, because the reading is just superb, and adds another dimension of wonderful to it all. You can toggle to a physical copy if you prefer.
I’m currently reading Salman Rushdie’s Quichotte, his take on Don Quixote. I’m loving it so far. It’s immensely clever and humorous. His declaration, “You are the Stimpy to my Ren!” had me choke a little on my Gatorade. References to characters like Neegan put it squarely into our time. If you love the classics and a giggle, you’ll love this.
If you’ve made your way through the rest of the Man Booker list, please leave me your thoughts on the others in the comments! Thanks!
I was absolutely floored by The Year of the Dogs. The author was a photographer for National Geographic, and he and his wife (also a photographer) decided to take a sabbatical when their son turned 16, to reinvent himself as a dog photographer so that they could spend as much time with their kiddo before he finished growing up and would make his way out into the world.
The resulting photographs are spectacular. The dogs are treated with the same dignity and gravity we’re used to seeing with all the large mammals in Nat Geo. The dogs are active participants in creating their portraits. The images are filled with warmth, tenderness, and humor, with the souls of those dogs really coming through. There are stories along side them, with the artist’s thoughts, or little stories about the dogs, but those are just frosting. The images really tell their own stories.
I think any dog lover would adore this book. Mentioning a coffee table sounds so cliché, so I hate to mention it, but this would be such a fun book to leave out at a cocktail party. It has a permanent spot on my side table.
You love wine, and would love to learn a little more about your favorite evening treat, but hate pretense? Wine For Normal People promises to give you a wine education and it delivers! To my delight, it is not dry in the least, and doesn’t feel even a teensy bit like work. It’s really well-organized, entertaining, engaging, and interesting. It’s weird to call something educational a page turner, but it’s a little like taking a class you’re super interested in with a really funny, sometimes slightly snarky, brilliant, super enthusiastic friend.
Pinot Noir is my favorite. Not gonna lie. It’s a little disturbing to learn that my preference can be described as “barnyard” or “gamy”. I guess it makes sense. I’d really rather be in the woods hiking somewhere. Always.
One passage inspired me to poll my friends: Are you self-conscious when learning? The wine is wonderfully fruity tasting. Stick your tongue in a wine and plug your nose. If it’s sweet, there’s sugar in it. If not, it’s dry. So the poll. Do you A) Go for it, both feet in, and get the information you need? B) Stifle yourself because you aren’t going to look ridiculous? In my friend group, it was solidly team A. <snort!> People are fun!
Wine will no longer be an intimidating topic. She demystifies everything. Apologies to the author if she reads this because she explicitly claims not to demystify wine, because where would be the fun in that?! But she does. 🤷♀️ I expect that most normal people who enjoy drinking wine will experience plenty of Aha!s in the book.
This would make a great gift for the wine enthusiast, with a nice bottle. Or a spill remover.
I think we’ve all had that one literature or art history professor that was so knowledgeable and enthusiastic to share stories with you that they actually added to the story/painting/sculpture. You know how lucky that is?! We love mythology books around here. They’re usually retellings and you get the original story, hopefully well-told, and it ends there. Not this book! Stephen Fry’s voice is very much a part of Mythos and it adds so much. It feels like the author is curled up on the couch next to you, and you’re slightly concerned he might spill his wine as he excitedly thrusts his hands out from his sides, fingers fanned crazily, “Get a load of this!”
This story behind Botticelli’s Birth of Venus never showed up in art history class. Amazing book of Greek mythology with zero dryness.
*I received copies of the last three to explore and share my thoughts.