Books '11


Books read and (some) opinioned-upon...


21) Ravenous by Dayna Macy


20) And I Shall Have Some Peace There by Margaret Roach

19) Run!: 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss by Dean Karnazes


18) Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall

17) The Year We Seized The Day: A True Story of Friendship and Renewal on the Camino by Elizabeth Best and Colin Bowles

16) The Second Journey: The Road Back to Yourself by Joan Anderson

15) A Walk On The Beach: Tales of Wisdom From an Unconventional Woman by Joan Anderson


14) An Unfinished Marriage by Joan Anderson


13) Harvest Diaries: A year of food and wine on an organic farm by Christine Stevens

What's not to love about a recipe book that reads like a diary of a farmer/mom/cook/gardener set in such a beautiful part of South Africa?

My favourite story was of the horses who, on a bitterly cold night, traversed a great distance to the farm house to "knock at the door" (so to speak) to ask for warmer sleeping quarters.

It's a must-have for any cook book collection.


12) The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman (Kindle Edition)

I think I missed the point of this book.
Wait...was there a point to this book?
Where did the courage and redemption come into it?
Sure, there was a lot of pee (that part of the title was accurate).
Also, a lot of sex obsession, balls and bemoaning.
I don't think I liked this book.
But I didn't stop reading it till it was finished.

11) 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days -- and How You Too Can Achieve Super Endurance by Dean Karnazes

I needed super endurance just writing that super-long book title.

Here's the low-down:
  1. For those of you who read Ultramarathon Man, you will be disappointed in this book because the style of writing is totally different, and not nearly as enjoyable.
  2. For those of you looking for the secrets of super endurance, you wont find them in this book. Most of the info is your standard "how to run successfully" type info. Really, it would seem that Dean Karnazes is super-human, and the things he's telling you to do like getting enough rest, he doesn't do himself and he still runs fifty consecutive marathons (and then runs home cross-country afterwards because no-one bought him an airline ticket...*cough*).
Big conclusion? You wanna run....RUN! What doesn't kill you will probably make you stronger...or it might give you permanent injuries that plague you for the rest of your earthly days...but either way, you'll probably never get anywhere close to being as OTT as Dean Karnazes.


10) Unbearable Lightness by Portia de Rossi (Kindle Edition)

This was a difficult book to read, though not for lack of writing style. Indeed, the book flows smoothly in an adeptly descriptive manner. Rather, the difficulty for the reader lies in stomaching the self-hatred evident during Ms. de Rossi's struggle with disordered eating, as well as the extreme self-obsession.

Most of the book focuses on her eating disorder in grim detail. Unfortunately, possibly acting as a "how-to" guide for those who are impressionable to pro-thinspo/pro-ana triggers. The saving grace, though, is that this is an ED memoir which ends in recovery.

The Epilogue briefly explains the turning-point for her, as well as the tools she used to get to a healthy place; mentally, emotionally and physically. Another enjoyable aspect is the explanation behind the first meeting between Ellen DeGeneres and Portia.
[Warning: spoiler alert].
They meet at a concert, where both feel the initial chemistry. Ellen invites Portia to her house for an after-party by using the excuse that other people are also attending. Portia's low self-esteem forces her to turn down the invitation. It then turns out that the only reason Ellen said that other people were attending was to make Portia feel comfortable enough to attend as well, thus leaving Ellen with a house full of people to entertain that she didn't really want to! Portia only discovers this years later once their relationship has drifted into romantic territory.

It's a worthwhile read for those interested in viewing an angle on the many "why's" behind eating disorders, as well as for a unique look into the behind-the-scenes goings-on of the Ally McBeal set. For those of you who watched the series, you'll remember that Calista Flockhart herself also suffered from anorexia during her stint as the lead character; as did Courtney Thorne-Smith. Jane Krakowski (who now graces the TV screen in 30 Rock) also lost significant amounts of weight towards the end of the show. Therefore, the book also serves as a commentary on Hollywood "norms" and societal expectations with regards to weight.

9) Bossypants by Tina Fey (Kindle Edition)

This book is an eclectic mix of Tina Fey's brand of nuttiness. It really doesn't read in the classic style of a memoir (but who would expect it to, with her as author, right?). 

It intersperses personal history with hollywood how-to's, self-deprecating humour with underplayed sarcasm, parenting tips with ego trips. 

It's a little heavy on the "this is how improv works", but is still a funny little read, and well worth the money spent to buy the kindle edition. 

8) Seduced By Simplicity by Heather Mattern (eBook)

Cover picture available here.

In the author's own words (pg. 8-9): "This is simply our story about how downsizing changed our life... This eBook is all about the way that we learned to let go, yet gained so much in the end. This is the way that we embraced simplicity."

An enjoyable read. I would have appreciated a little more depth to the general content, and perhaps more detail on the RV experience itself. However, I really enjoyed the author's take on how home schooling subjects are integrated flawlessly into real life.

Tip: Unless you have extremely good eyesight, or don't mind scrolling on your Kindle if you enlarge the text, this pdf is probably better read on your computer.

The author's website can be found here.

Available to purchase here.

7) The Girl's Guide To Growing Your Own: How to grow fruit and vegetables without getting your hands too dirty by Alex Mitchell

The 50s style, seasonal layout and quirky photos make this book a cute addition to any beginner gardener's bookshelf.

The sub-title is more of a catch phrase than the truth, as every gardener knows that the feeling of the earth on bare hands can be delightful, and therefore a little dirt in lieu of gloves and clean fingernails is occasionally welcome.

The difficulty ratings given to the growing of individual veggies and fruit is novel, but bear in mind that this information is obviously continent and micro-climate specific.

A lovely gift for new gardening enthusiasts.


6) The Dolce Vita Diaries by Cathy Rogers and Jason Gibb

An honest portrayal of two ex-LA execs who have a mid-life crisis of sorts, pack it all in after becoming besotted by olive oil, and work like dogs to get a company off the ground using the premise of adopting an olive tree (and supplying the adopters with the olive oil from "their" tree).

Now, I've read many, many, many travel writing know the kind: We're absurdly rich or somehow have this job that allows us to life the good life while making money on the side. Then we pick our country of choice, and write a book bitching and bemoaning the ills of said country while describing languorous lunches with ex-pats who bitch about the same stuff, etc, etc.

This is not one of those. It's straight forward while also being strangely charming. And no dissing of the locals occurs for the most part. Plus, you get about 50 recipes in the back of the book (strangely, none of which are described in any details in terms of eating in the book, so it's just a bonus).
They have a rocking little website should you feel compelled to adopt an olive tree and get your olive oil posted to you anywhere in the world. They also have a blog. Both can be found here.


5) Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer

Real-life stuff....strangely gritty at times in an "honest portrayal" kind of way...all linked with yoga poses and the emotions/memories they evoke. Definitely worth a read if you're interested in a non-fiction book which has an almost fictional flow to it.

The author's website can be found here.

4) Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an all-night runner by Dean Karnazes

As a testament to the capacity of inspiration to have an effect on cardiovascular endurance, on the afternoon that I re-watched the DVD Ultramarathon Man: 50 Marathons - 50 States - 50 Days, my husband (who has recently been diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma) and I also ran the entire distance of our regular jogging route (started in Dec 2010) without taking the short walk break we usually take at the midway point. We got home totally stoked from our run, and I promptly ordered this book on 24-hr delivery. Man, was I NOT disappointed!

Life insights jump out at you from this book, and I loved every page of it (even the cringey bits about how the body starts to malfunction at ultra distances serves a purpose to highlight not only the amazing talent of Karnazes, but also the fight of the human spirit).

As Karnazes says (pg. 232): "The human body is capable of amazing physical deeds. If we could just free ourselves from our perceived limitations and tap into our internal fire, the possibilities are endless."

Whether you're an avid exerciser or a couch surfer, do yourself a favour and read this book. I believe that it just might plant a seed that will take root and grow.

"I heard the calling, and I went to the light." - Dean Karnazes (pg. 64)

The author's website can be found here.

3) The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

The back cover reads:
"Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon in the unlikeliest of places: a city bus. 'The days are long, but the years are short,' she realized. 'Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter.'
In the moment, she decided to dedicate a year to her happiness project.
In this lively and compelling account of that year, Rubin chronicles her adventures test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific research, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. Each month she tackled a new set of resolutions: give proofs of love, ask for help, find more fun, keep a gratitude notebook, forget about results. She immersed herself in principles set forth by everyone from Epicurus to Thoreau to Oprah to Martin Seligman to the Dalai Lama to see what worked for her - and what didn't.
Written with charm and wit, 'The Happiness Project' is illuminating yet entertaining, thought-provoking yet compulsively readable. Gretchen Rubin's passion for her subject jumps off the page, and reading just a few chapters of this book will inspire you to start your own happiness project."

In retrospect, the shpiel on the back cover should have made me want to run a mile. I tried so hard to like this book...I really did. But for some reason: nada.

Rubin comes across as an obsessive compulsive whinger that has a good life but finds ways to crap-it-up with her perfectionistic behaviour, and then tries to un-do the damage by a "happiness project". As such, I'm sure it will appeal to a certain personality type.

Since I didn't want to walk away from this book feeling like I'd wasted my money and time, I decided to take-away the spirit or intention behind it; which is to make concerted attempts to be a better person in some meaningful way every day, in such a way that there is an overall change for the better in your life.
Enough said.

The author's website can be found here.


2) The Treehouse by Naomi Wolf

The back cover reads:
"Highly acclaimed author and feminist thinker Naomi Wolf was brought up to believe that contentment is something that can be taught - and learned. In this magical book, Naomi shares the enduring wisdom of her father, a well-regarded poet and teacher for sixty years. Leonard Wolf is a true eccentric. A tall, craggy, good-looking man in his early eighties, he's the kind of person who likes to convince otherwise sensible people to quit their jobs and follow their passions. Here is a meditation on fathers and daughters, an argument for honouring the creative impulse, and unique instruction in the art of personal happiness."

This book should be issued with a warning, in that if you are not working your dream job, you will want to quit it and jump in the deep end.

In two words: thought transforming!

The author's website can be found here.

1) The Virgin Gardener by Laetitia Maklouf

The back cover reads:
"This is a book of easy projects for virgin gardeners. If you've never done it before, or have been disappointed in the past, these ideas will show you how to get intimate with plants and sex up your living space - indoors or out - without the complicated jargon and off-putting diagrams. You don't have to own a garden, you don't have to get dirty and it won't take up all your time. This book will replace the fear of failure with a sense of fun, so take a deep breath and jump into the flowerbed."

Personally, I loved the photographs the most. It's a practical mix of gardening advice, how-to's, recipes and decorating tips all in one dynamite package!

The author's website can be found here.

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