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June booklist

I'm late. And kind of all over the board with these reviews. Read at your own risk!

1. An Economist Gets Lunch: new rules for everyday foodies, Tyler Cowen

I liked this, which is not too surprising - I'm into eating good food and I'm interested in behavioral economics. Some highlights:

* One of Cowen's main messages is this: deregulate food (for example, drop stringent restrictions on food trucks and revoke the ban on importing unpasteurized cheese) and we'll get access to better food. (I support this SO MUCH. Basic safety is one thing, "saving" us from the horrors of unpasteurized dairy is quite another.)

* The best and most expensive seafood restaurants in the big cities of the United States will never be as good as a cheap restaurant on the seaside in a third world country. Fresh, high quality ingredients trump everything else. This is why it's possible to find amazing food in some of the poorest countries of the world.

* The best ethnic (especially Asian) restaurants are in strip malls and other unimpressive places. They're the ones who cater to picky ethnic customers who demand authenticity. Restaurants that cater to Americans will have muted flavors and Americanized dishes. (There's a time and a place for Americanized dishes, don't get me wrong. I love me some tex-mex and PF Changs. But know you're not getting an authentic dish.)

* Vietnamese in America almost always good, as long as you use the condiments. Thai is going downhill because it's gotten hip - "Yet, the truth is: Hip people do not always have superb taste in food."

* On when eating 'green' isn't actually greener than the alternative: "There are plenty of policies or choices that make us feel good about ourselves, and we are too likely to choose those policies, even when they are not going to prove affective. Human beings feel an instinctive need to ally with the wise, the generous, the benevolent, and the righteous. Caring people wish to stand against the brutal, the unfeeling, and the rapacious. We FEEL better by constructing alliances with moral individuals or by linking ourselves with apparently moral qualities, but that's not always the same as being effective in achieving our desired practical ends."

* Behavioral economics is so interesting to me in part because of things like this: using/consuming green products encourages people to be LESS moral. It's part of human nature to think that if you'd done something good (in this case, something like drinking fair trade coffee or using green cleaning products), you've 'earned' the right to a little bit of bad behavior.

Before anyone jumps down my throat, obviously this is a generalization and I am most certainly not accusing anyone I actually know of behaving in less than moral ways.

* Eating organic has become a moral issue instead of a health or taste issue. (I really, really hate this. I'm all for sustainable farming, eating fresh and local foods, and being good stewards of our environment. But stop making it into a thing where "good" people eat local and "bad" people eat vegetables trucked in from Mexico. This is why I am very jaded about and do not identify with the movement in general. It's a personal choice. Pay attention to your own choices and keep your nose out of other people's. Annoyed much? YES. This will probably make some people mad, which is crazy - I'M ON YOUR SIDE. Just stop making it about morality.)

* "Rural Mexican farmers do not kill their chickens by surprise..." Pointy things usually work better anyway.

* People are often guilty of fetishizing food - sometimes a meal needs to just be a meal. I agree and disagree. I long ago decided that my calorie intake was too precious to waste any on 'bad' food. I really try not to eat just because something is there, or spend calories on stuff I don't even really like. I don't enjoy soda enough to justify the calories, for example, so I almost never drink it. But sometimes you do just have to eat, and not every meal needs to be perfect and amazing and local and organic. Sometimes ... you just need to eat some peanut butter toast and get on with life.

So yeah, I liked this book.



2. My Russian Grandmother and her American Vacuum Cleaner, Meir Shalev

Without a doubt, this book would mean more to someone from a Russian/Jewish background. As it was, while the quirky grandmother and unusual family stories were often interesting, this very short book still felt like it was dragging on too long.

3. The Winter of our Disconnect, Susan Maushart

Would I have the heart to tear my three teenagers away from their cell phones, laptops, and other electronics for six months? Probably not. Would I have wanted to be one of those teenagers? No way. Would I do this to myself voluntarily? HECK no. But it made a great book ... and the experiment had some pretty amazing results that we can learn from without entirely giving up electronics.

4. The Selection, Kiera Cass

YA dystopia with a The Batchelor-like twist. So yes, it's a little like The Hunger Games in that it involves reality tv, but there's a lot more poofy dresses and a lot less dying. Rather fluffy, but y'know. Pretty dresses!

5. All These Things I've Done, Gabrielle Zevin

More YA dystopia, this time in a future where showers are 90 seconds long due to water rationing, speakeasies serve coffee, and chocolate is contraband. Despite this fascinating premise, the story is a lot more about the main character balancing her mafia family ties with her regular life and trying, in the midst of it all, to keep her brother safe. I really admire this book because it's different and brave, but I'm not sure if I liked it well enough to chase after the sequel.

6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larsson

Y'know, this was actually really, really good. I listened to the audio because I was warned that it starts off incredibly slow (it does) and I figured I'd be more apt to stick with it if I could be doing other things while listening. Well, by the middle I was hooked and desperate to find out what happened to Harriet.

I do wish they'd kept the original title - Men Who Hate Women, it's just so much more appropriate. I love Salander, messed-up, punk hacker Salander. I hear that it was supposed to be a 10-book series, so when I get to the end of the third book (yes, I read the spoilers) I'm going to pretend it's not really the end and that Salander and you-know-who really do end up together. The writing style is obsessive about details and borderline annoying, especially with all the brand-dropping (this review lampooned it quite accurately) but somehow I can't imagine the book without it. Be warned: there are rough scenes. Really rough scenes. Also, I watched the Swedish film and loved it.

7. Grave Mercy, Robin Lafevers

I do not even know how to describe this; my brain is fried. But it was good. Although the pagan undertones kind of weirded me out, for some reason.

8. Tiger's Curse, Colleen Houck

Another series I didn't expect to love the way I did. On the one hand, this was almost self-published, it sounded cheesy (cursed Indian princes? Tigers who are really men? Ancient prophecies?) and the pages/margins seemed all weird in a low-budget way to me (strange things bother me, I know.) But ... dang if this wasn't a captivating story. Not particularly well-written, no, but captivating. In this book I fell in love with Ren. And decided I really, really want a pet tiger.

9. Amy's Answering Machine, Amy Borkowsky

Amy's mom is a hoot. Amy thinks so too, and recorded her mom's messages on her answering machine and made them into a book.

10. More Home Cooking, Laurie Colwin

Fooooooood. Love her conversational writing style, too.

11. Tiger's Quest, Colleen Houck

Book two. Ren or Kishan? Kishan or Ren? SO CONFUSING.

12. So you Created A Wormhole: the time traveler's guide to time travel, Phil Hornshaw & Nick Hurwitch

A very clever idea that would have made a great article but failed in book length, as only a joke drug out too long can do.

13. The Ivy Tree, Mary Stewart

Good old Mary Stewart totally trolled me. During the first third of the book, I thought "if this were a modern novel, I know exactly what would happen - pretty soon there would be a big plot twist and it would turn out that
[Spoiler]
she IS actually [redacted], and is only pretending to be someone else pretending to be her. But it's not a modern novel, so this won't happen."

And then it happened. I was so surprised I nearly fell off my chair.

14. The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson

The actual mystery in this book wasn't as enthralling as the first, but by this point I was so into the main characters that I didn't care.

15. Tiger's Voyage, Colleen Houck

Book three. REN YOU ARE A JERK I REPENT OF EVER LIKING YOU. Kishan forever. (srsly, amnesia or not, he didn't have to parade that idiotic bimbo around in front of Kelsey.) So to recap the series so far: writing a little too redundant and explanatory, dialog a bit stilted, but male leads = hot, when they aren't being jerks. Bring it on, book four!

16. The Steal: a culteral history of shoplifting, Rachel Shteir

I wondered how you could write a whole book on the history of shoplifting - turns out, it is a wee bit uninteresting, although the tactics stores use to fight back were a highlight.



ebooks: 0
audiobooks: 2
from The Stack: 3

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Comments

( 22 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
eattheolives
Jul. 9th, 2012 03:53 am (UTC)
The best ethnic restaurants I've been to, hands down, have all been little ugly hole-in-the-wall types. From Thai to Mexican, the worse the place looks the better the food!

Thanks for understanding about the organic thing! I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but this is an issue I feel strongly about.
(Deleted comment)
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure if this is the greatest example, but I liken it to smoking. I personally abhor smoking and think it's a really poor decision (it stinks, it bothers my asthma, it's terribly bad for your health) BUT that's each person's choice to make. I think it's a bad choice, but I still support your freedom to choose it and I don't see it as a moral issue.

(It gets trickier when you consider second-hand smoke, which does affect others, but I still think private businesses - like restaurants - should be able to allow smoking. Yes, I'll hate it, but I can either choose to go there and cough my way through dinner, or go somewhere else. Probably go somewhere else. :))
moredetails
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:39 am (UTC)
The Winter of our Disconnect sounds really interesting! As does that answering machine one. :) I might have to check them out.

Ooooh don't tell everyone what happens in Ivy Tree!! :D Please? In the name of non-spoilage? :)
eattheolives
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:50 am (UTC)
Hidden behind a spoiler tag! Since it's such an old book, I forgot there might be people interested who haven't read it yet. :)
moredetails
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:57 am (UTC)
:D Thank you! Haha.. you hadn't even read it until now, though, right? :) Or was it a reread and you're just telling us your initial reaction from the first time?

I tend to get a little sensitive about spoilers--sorry and thanks!
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
Nope, this was my first reading. I just wasn't thinking. :)
jennymae
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:49 am (UTC)
AS usual, I have added multiple books to my list. I need to start reading more/faster/in my sleep....SOMETHING! :-P

LOL Thanks for the great recommends! :-D
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
I have two words for you: audio books!
kiwiria
Jul. 9th, 2012 06:00 am (UTC)
Glad you've liked Stieg Larsson so far:-) I find the series amazing and actually think thelast one is the best.
...it's also the most geekiest, which may have something to do with it ;-)
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:54 pm (UTC)
Geek is good!
krikketgirl
Jul. 9th, 2012 12:28 pm (UTC)
I feel that the local, organic food issue is just one of many things that have become a moral issue instead of a personal choice issue, and it makes me cranky, too. It isn't that I disagree part-and-parcel; I do think I should be more fit, would like to eat more local, organic produce, and help the planet. But doing those things doesn't make me morally superior, and not doing them doesn't make me morally inferior.
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:55 pm (UTC)
As usual, very well said. I agree completely. :)
katharhino
Jul. 9th, 2012 02:16 pm (UTC)
Behavioral economics IS fascinating! that sounds like a book I would enjoy. I do agree that the constant superiority and judgy-ness of some activists is really annoying, and does a lot of harm. I can't help saying, though, that I think there are at least ethical implications to decisions about food buying and eating.

Oh, I love The Ivy Tree! I also guessed the twist, but it was fun all the same.
eattheolives
Jul. 11th, 2012 04:57 pm (UTC)
If I could study one thing just for fun, it'd be behavioral economics. So much to learn!

I understand what you mean about ethical issues - that starts to get sticky really quickly and I'm not entirely sure how to approach it. But I am pretty sure that making others feel guilty or less-than for not doing as you do is not going to win you many converts. =P
katharhino
Jul. 11th, 2012 05:06 pm (UTC)
No, I don't believe in guilting people into converting and as you said, it really really doesn't work. Anyway, I'm by no means 100% organic or anything myself. I try to do what I can but I'm not going to spend loads of time angsting about my choices.
mainemilyhoon
Jul. 9th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
I haven't quite given up on Ren yet, but I do want to see him grovel and apologize A LOT before Kelsey takes him back. If he'd at least acknowledge that all of their conflict in Voyage was his fault, it would be a step in the right direction. Kishan is great, though. I'd be very happy to see Kelsey end up with him instead. (And I want him for myself, too. :-D)
eattheolives
Jul. 16th, 2012 10:24 pm (UTC)
In the first book I really hated Kishan. He was rude and didn't respect Kelsey's boundaries and ... he was rude. But wow, what a turn-around!
chestnutcurls
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:16 pm (UTC)
Yay Laurie Colwin!

Great thoughts about the food stuff.
elanortheeldest
Jul. 9th, 2012 04:28 pm (UTC)
oooh, that foodie book sounds great! Chinese is probably my favorite food to eat when eating out (followed closely by Mexican) and, yes, the strip mall places are Ze Best.

YESx a million on the morality thing. It's FOOD, people. I think part of the problem stems from how we've worked to make ourselves a non-judgmental culture. The thing is, we're designed to make right and wrong calls. If we don't make them in the areas we're supposed to (religion, etc) then I think we subconsciously hunt around for something else to be firm about. When that happens, we end up looking ridiculous.

aaand...
People are often guilty of fetishizing food - sometimes a meal needs to just be a meal. I agree and disagree. I long ago decided that my calorie intake was too precious to waste any on 'bad' food. I really try not to eat just because something is there, or spend calories on stuff I don't even really like. I don't enjoy soda enough to justify the calories, for example, so I almost never drink it. But sometimes you do just have to eat, and not every meal needs to be perfect and amazing and local and organic. Sometimes ... you just need to eat some peanut butter toast and get on with life."

*sigh* I need to do so much better about treating my calorie intake well. I got so lazy in college and then slacked off still when Keegan was tiny, and I am reaping negatively from it all. Thanks for this paragraph because it's another good reminder to me. I needed it.
I also LOVE itwhen people acknowledge that, hello, the important thing is to eat. I would love to give Keegan perfect food every meal of his life, but sometimes that just can't happen. It's not worth stewing over. It just is.
eattheolives
Jul. 16th, 2012 10:26 pm (UTC)
The thing is, we're designed to make right and wrong calls. If we don't make them in the areas we're supposed to (religion, etc) then I think we subconsciously hunt around for something else to be firm about. When that happens, we end up looking ridiculous.

Hm ... that makes very good sense. I wonder if anyone has ever studied that ...
( 22 comments — Leave a comment )