Marie’s Reading: “Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books” by Cara Nicoletti ; illustrations by Marion Bolognesi

VoraciousIsn’t it great when you find an author who’s a kindred spirit?  Cara Nicoletti is the same age as me, loves food, loves to read, and loves to write about both.  After reading her book Voracious (as well as her blog, Yummy Books), I  feel like we’d be friends.

Nicoletti’s work is charming, warm, funny, and intelligent.  She’s an astute reader who clearly has a lot of passion and a depth and breadth of reading behind her.  She’s just the type of person you’d want to talk about books with as you cook a meal together.  Her book grew out of her blog, which in turn grew out of her book/cooking club.  Really, what an utterly amazing idea, a literary supper club.  I wish I’d thought of it.  (My idea was to read and drink my way through Tequila Mockingbird.  Nicoletti’s idea is a lot classier.)

As I mentioned, Nicoletti and I are the same age, so I got a real kick out of hearing what books she liked when she was a kid.  That was my favorite section of her book, and I enjoyed the piece about Little House in the Big Woods in particular.  In looking over her blog I got embarrassingly excited when I saw “Stacey’s EmergencyBrown Butter Pecan Brownies.    Along with everything else we’ve got in common, we felt the same way about the Babysitters Club.  This is one paragraph among many that made me laugh:

Recently, on a particularly overwhelming day, I impulse-bought Babysitter’s Club Book #43: “Stacey’s Emergency” at a used book store. The dilemma in the book is this: Stacey loves chocolate, but Stacey has diabetes so she cannot eat chocolate. Ignoring her diagnosis, Stacey steals Ring Dings from Claudia’s house and stuffs them in her purse, she eats chocolate bars in the privacy of her bedroom, foams like a rabid animal while making fudge at a babysitting job, and (ROCK BOTTOM), even shoves M&M’s in her mouth in the bathroom of a commuter train. Eventually, Stacey gets really really sick because, you know, cause and effect.

“Charming” is the word I keep coming back to when I think about Voracious.  I was charmed, by the sheer passion, by the fun, by the love of reading, by the love of food.

Howards End Is On the Landing: A Year of Reading From Home by Susan Hill, My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss, Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda, and the lovely lyrical novel Tomorrow There Will Be Apricots by Jessica Soffer would all be wonderful choices, both for tone and content, to pick up after Voracious.  Or after an afternoon of reading Nicoletti’s blog.

–Marie

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26 Books to Read in 2015: #4

#4 is: A book your friend loves.

At first I turned to social media with help for the fourth item on the challenge list.  I got a great response, too.  Here are the books my Facebook Friends love:

The Martian by Andy Weir
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The Soulless Series by Gail Corrigan
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon
Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Bees by Laline Paull
Luck in the Shadows by Lyn Flewelling
The Wind Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
The Meadow by James Galvin
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

I’ve read and enjoyed several of those, have a few on my TBR list already, and am intrigued by the remaining.

In the end, though, I went with a book my best friend loves: We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich.

we took to the woodsMy husband started reading this at work one day, and immediately began sending me quotes.  He added:

It’s a true Maine classic.  I know you’ll like it too because I’m reading about Christmas in the woods and making gifts for people.

Sold!

Louise Dickinson Rich lived with her husband, Ralph, deep in the Maine Woods in the Rangeley area.  Surrounded by water and miles of woods on all sides, it was a rather quiet and private life.  In that there was no traffic and no neighbors.  Because to hear Rich tell it, things were never, ever dull or boring.

How could they be, when all your time is taken up with keeping your household up and running?  Keeping cars running, boats afloat, wood chopped and supplies laid in.  Guiding folks through the woods.  When you live the real rural life, you have few quiet moments.  How lucky for posterity that Rich found time to write every day about her life!

Winter_House
Rich’s house is on the National Register of Historic Places. Click the picture to go to the website!

More than anything else I loved how matter-of-fact and simple Rich’s prose is.  She conjures up time and place brilliantly.  You’re right there with her in the Maine woods.  The smells, the sounds, the leaves on the trees and the movement of the river.  And the anecdotes!  Boy, could Rich turn a phrase, and create such simple yet brilliantly clear images. Her descriptive powers are wonderful.  Off the top of my head I recall the scene where she describes a group of young girls from a camp as moving around like “a pack of beagles.”  Genius!  You know just what she means.  The book is full of descriptions like that.

Rich comes across as incredibly smart and incredibly down-to-earth.  We Took to the Woods is hilarious and inspiring, and makes me feel like I just might be equipped to handle life.  Really, I got the same sort of enjoyment out of this memoir as I did from The Boxcar Children when I was a kid.  I like to read about people being resourceful and capable because it’s just how they do, without the bells and whistles of “finding oneself” or similar.

For my best friend and me, We Took to the Woods is a now a household favorite, with a home on our bookshelf, in our set of reference, and our inspiration for being smart, capable, hardy human beings.  Even if we’re not deep in the woods.

–Marie