photo of the week 37: what my readers are reading…

I need your help. Almost more than eating, I love to read. As a child, I devoured books by the shelves.  Naturally, I waded through a heavy load of classics, supplemented by required reading in school. But I also doted on children’s fantasies and historical novels, political thrillers and mysteries. I fell hard and fast […]


I need your help.

Almost more than eating, I love to read.

As a child, I devoured books by the shelves.  Naturally, I waded through a heavy load of classics, supplemented by required reading in school. But I also doted on children’s fantasies and historical novels, political thrillers and mysteries.

I fell hard and fast for Shakespeare early on. My awe only grows with each return.

I was seduced by Jane and repelled by F. Scott.  I grew fat on Forster and trimmed down with Hemingway.

Faulkner, Vonnegut, and Dostoevsky – these three heavyweights carried me through college, austere mentors in manhood and more.

Then it was on to screenplays and stage scripts, which taught me the magic of dialogue, and revealed the skeletons of storytelling.

I read the Bible four times, cover to cover, and many more times in mosaic since.  I suppose I should read the Quran at some point too.

After college, fiction waned as non-fiction waxed.  I discovered biographies and autobiographies.  They taught me to admire, to fear, to aspire, to dream.  Subjects ugly and fair, they fascinated me with equal weight.

And then food writing arrived on my nightstand.  And it overwhelmed me.  It still does. You should see the stack.

Sadly, my reading rate has dropped off a cliff lately.

I’ve had a thick travel schedule this year.  Forced to pack lightly, I’ve ejected books in favor of running shoes.  And, unfortunately, in the days and weeks between trips, I’ve found it hard to pick up pages that have grown cold from time away.

So, for this thirty-seventh photo of the week, I give you my solution, which arrived in the mail today: an e-book. (No, this is not a paid advertisement.)


photo of the week 37: what my readers are reading...


Here’s where I’d appreciate your help: I need to gas this sucker up before I leave on my next trip.

Has there been a book that has left a particularly deep impression on you lately?  Has a book ever changed your life?  What are you reading right now?  What have you been reading?  I’d love to know.  I’m always looking for a good book, and now that I can carry a library in one, thin tablet, I welcome your recommendations.  Please leave them in the comment section of this post.

Here’s a sliver of what I’ve really enjoyed reading in the past few years:

A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole
A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott
Blue Trout and Black Truffles, by Joseph Wechsberg
Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger
Into Thin Air, by John Krakauer
Insatiable, by Gael Greene
King Leopold’s Ghost, by Adam Hochschild
Native Son, by Richard Wright
Personal History, by Katharine Graham
The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
The Irish Game, by Matthew Hart
The Name of the Rose, by Umberto Eco
The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett

Here’s what’s currently parked on my nightstand:

American Food Writing, edited by Molly O’Neill
Knives at Dawn, by Andrew Friedman
Open, by Andre Agassi
The $12 Million Dollar Stuffed Shark, by Don Thompson
Truman, by David McCullough
The latest issue of Food Arts – there’s a really great article entitled “Blood Work” by Brad Farmerie about blood cooking.

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34 replies on “photo of the week 37: what my readers are reading…”

How can you not love F Scott’s Gatsby?? the line about beautiful shirts.. just slays me every time… but then, I’m a bit of clothes horse as well as a foodie and boozie! ha ha… anything by Ruth Reichel is great, plus, Alan Richman’s Fork It Over is lol in so many places, plus great food writing. Enjoy!!

Good idea. Here are some things I’ve read in the past several months and enjoyed (I may be going for a while):

Swamplandia!, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves – Karen Russell (young and very talented Miami writer, Swamplandia is her first novel, St. Lucy’s is a collection of short stories. I’d start with the latter, if you like it go to the former).

Blood Bones & Butter – Gabrielle Hamilton (surprisingly good writer and not just a “food” book).

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell (the most recent and “traditional” of Mitchell’s books, one of my favorite contemporary authors – also liked Cloud Atlas, Black Swan Green, Number 9 Dream).

Chronic City – Jonatham Lethem (kind of lightweight for Lethem but fun).

The Instructions – Adam Levin (another first novel, and a bit of an undertaking – 1,000+ pages about 4 momentous days in the life of a 10-year old kid who maybe might be the messiah).

Home Land – Sam Lipsyte (bitter, raunchy and hilarious).

A few other books that come to mind:

Carter Beats the Devil – Glen David Gold
Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay – Michael Chabon
Motherless Brooklyn, Fortress of Solitude – Jonathan Lethem
Inherent Vice, Mason & Dixon – Thomas Pynchon
Russian Debutante’s Handbook, Absurdistan – Gary Shteyngart

Jeffrey Steingarten’s “Man Who Ate Everything” and Jay Rayner’s “Man Who Ate the World” also make a nice double-feature.

You should get on Google plus. There seems to be a ton of people who I follow that often talk about what they are reading and what they plan on reading next. Also often see requests like yours of “what should I read next”. Here’s someone to follow to get you started.

Found via a random Google search. Check out who other people follow or have following them and you’ll build up your Reading Circle in no time.

If you want to tackle the Quran, you may want to pick this up first.
“Reading the Quran”

Now that you have a Kindle, you might also want to check out these sites:

My wife just finished reading “Empires of Food” by Evan D.G. Fraser and Andrew Rimas. She just gave me the book to read, so I’m sure it’s pretty good. If not, you can blame my wife. :)

LOVED Blue Trout and Black Truffles, and also Into Thin Air. Have you read ‘A Taste of My Life’ by Raymond Blanc? I think you can get a real feel for him as a person from the book. Also, Adventures on the Wine Route, was one of the first wine books I read, which really got me excited about it.

Funny you should ask. (Or is it that great minds thingy?) I’m in the process of writing a post on this exact topic for my blog. I’m not sure what appeals to me will appeal to you. But in any case, I should have it up within the next few days, so stay tuned!

I’ve always been a fan of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry and his musings lead me to Niels Lyhne by Jens Peter Jacobsen. As much as I would love to provide a synopsis I will leave it to Rilke to persuade you:

“Now Niels Lyhne will open to you, a book of splendors and depths; the more often one reads it, the more everything seems to be contained within it, from life’s most imperceptible fragrances to the full, enormous taste of its heaviest fruits. In it there is nothing that does not seem to have been understood, held, lived, and known in memory’s wavering echo; no experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others. You will experience the great happiness of reading this book for the first time, and will move through its numberless surprises as if you were in a new dream.”

As for something from the non-fiction side: The Man Who Fed the World: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Norman Borlaug and His Battle to End World Hunger by Leon Hesser.

I second The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay.

Some other ones I’ve enjoyed recently:

The Road – Cormac McCarthy (more accessible than Blood Meridian)
A Game of Thrones – George RR Martin (crack in literary form)
Dune – James Herbert (a must-read classic)

I assume you’ve read Frank McCourt, but if not, all four of his books are outstanding.

The best book I read this year was a collection of aphorisms by Nassim Taleb called “Bed of Procrustes”

Curious about your thoughts on Edith Wharton- I really enjoyed Age of Innocence.

Last but not least, one of the greatest contemporary writers – Jose Saramago. Blindness, The Double, Death with Interruptions…

DD’s summer and mine have been consumed by the 4 (now 5)-volume series that is _Game of Thrones_: the Amazon kindle 4-book set is cheaper than buying each individually. Each book is 800-1000 pages long (but they go fast)! I’m not particularly drawn to fantasy, but by golly this is a great series! (We’ve cancelled cable and now have been reading most nights. Wonder what happens when we finish _Dance with Dragons_…). Congrats on your Kindle! Hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Now tell me – do you have an ipad as well?

“Four Fish; the Future of the Last Wild Food” -Paul Greenberg
“Consuming Passions; A History of English Food and Appetite” -Philippa Pullar
“The Perfectionist; Life and Death in Haute Cuisine” -Randolph Chelminski

Did you laugh out loud when you read Confederacy of Dunces? Perhaps if you haven’t read David Sedaris’ books, you should. I’m re-reading Naked and Me Talk Pretty is a gem. I’m sure his 2011 book is but I haven’t read it. Have you read Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart or any of Khaled Hosseini’s books? All great. If you can get through Pynchon’s Vineland, tell me how it is. Couldn’t stand it but maybe you are a better person than me.

I would like to recommend “Coming Through Slaughter,” by Michael Ondaajdte. It really changed my idea of what a novel could do both in portraying history and getting into the mind of the main character. I was deeply affected by this book, as a writer, in that when I finished the last page, I threw it across the room and cursed Ondaatdje for a full three minutes straight. But I’ve come back to this book (And his amazing, “Running in the Family” and everything else, dammit) to rekindle this weird point of view it developed. I know this post is old and you’re probably on the road but hey, go to a lobby and fire up the whisper net and get this book.

If you don’t mind irreverence, “Good Omens” by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett is hilarious and good for staying awake on a long haul. I also like “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman,

I second/third Game of Thrones.

the fountainhead…a classic, my old chef had me read it as part of the job. works so well for the kitchen.
the passage…if you like smart, vampire, post apocalyptic stuff.
unfortunately, my reading time is limited

I second the Game of Thrones, etc. reco, but here are a few others:

1. I, Claudius
1a. Claudius the God – both by Robert Graves
2. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
3. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler – Italo Calvino

If you havent read The book Thief, then i say it is something that will change you. It is beatiful and unique..
Also if you are looking for a fun but fantastically written fantasy The Name Of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is the most enjoyable fantasy ive read in the last year.
The lovely Bones will knock you sideways if you are up for it.. please dont judge it by the movie.
My favorite recipe book to read cover to cover is Nigella Lawsons How to Eat. She is witty, descriptive, friendly and evocative.. No pictures, but i find she paints them for you.
Im guessing you have read Kitchen Confidential? Probably, but its worth a mention just in case you havent! Happy reading!

i take it you’ve already read hemingway’s “a moveable feast?” on a totally different dimension, i suggest “please kill me the uncensored oral history of punk,” a nice raucous read… or “hopscotch” by cortazar, in which you can read the chapters sequentially, or not.