A round-up of books I've been reading (some that I AM reading and am not quite finished with).
The short of it is, that this is a book about a man that I know (knew) absolutely zero about (as in, never read any of his published books, essays and other journalistic outputs). I *think* the only reason I had even heard about this book was because he was featured on one NPR podcast or another that I am so fond of listening to. (I must have been one about 'God' or 'Religion' from PRI: To the best of own knowledge because he is also author of 'God is not Great'. Or not.)
Given that pre-amble I'm very much enjoying this memoir (about a man I don't know much about). I AM struggling with the fact that I have to google almost every paragraph that he writes because he references events, movements, people that I have zero knowledge about. You can blame that on my very poor grasp of history, or the fact that (hello) he is OLD and the things he talks about are usually very much before I was born.
Although he has chapters devoted to very famous people (James Fenton, Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie) - I just enjoyed reading about his mother Yvonne and father 'The Commander' . And I can say that without feeling embarrassed about being a 'writter groupie' - 'cause again I had never heard of the dude. They are just seem to me the most unselfconsciously written with a detached but forgiving view of how these who people shaped who he is.
Stuffed and Starved: The Hidden Battle for the World's Food System
So I continue to be very interested in all things about our food. I mean I can feel guilty and bad about spending money on *things* and buying into the consumerist culture that makes you buy,buy,buy to feel better... but since 'buying' food is something that is not optional I guess it's about time to start getting serious about understanding what the impact of what I eat is.
As a starter, I think this book is a good follow-up for reading anything by Michael Pollan. As in, his books are a lot more read-able. Also at it's core its about the love of food- and I'm a food lover-not about feeling guilty about eating things (including meat) but about how we can both 'eat well' and also 'eat right'.
Stuffed and Starved is more about the economics of food production, across the globe and the global system that ships food across the world so that I can in fact, buy coffee in Pakistan. I'm not that far along to say that much more - but in a weird way almost everything in the book is new information for me. Like I know farmers get subsidies in the US and I also know that there are almost zero small time farmers. But I didn't actually connect the dots; farmer subsidies = subsidies to major corporations. I have to take the book in small doses because it makes me in turn mad and despondent.
Hesse Fest: Siddharta & The Glass Bead Game
Pure chance of luck that I was in the particular Vietnamese hostel while traveling and my eye caught on the bright yellow cover of The Glass Bead Game (not the the same cover as shown on the left, which is also lucky for me because like it or not people do judge a book by its cover). At another point in my life the long narrative and non-story arc of the book might have bored me instantly. But in fact this is exactly the type of book you should be reading when you are forced to lie horizontal for many hours on the train while you are on a 3-month long trip of a life-time / soul searching escape to question where the hell is your life heading exactly and what the hell are you gonna do about it. I can't say much more about the book, except that 'this book changed my life'. In my mind I can completely visualize the 'sun dance' - the celebration of awesomeness of existence - of the young apprentice and the final words as the Magister Ludi is gripped by icy death.
I read Siddhartha a couple of weeks ago - again a slow read where I tried to enjoy the pleasure of the words instead of hurriedly racing across the page as I some times do. But it probably wasn't really the right time; it's was too hard to not let my mind wander to thoughts about my exercise tomorrow or what I'm need to do at work or whatever else. WHICH I think is a good case for the necessity of a restorative vacation.
From Heaven Lake: Travels Through Sinkiang and Tibet by Vikram Seth
Read it several months back. Not for everyone, at every time I agree but at this point I wasn't working so I had lots of lazy afternoons. It's a travelogue - but I found it pleasant to read about the still 'lone ranger charting to unexplored territory' feel of the journey although even by then Tibet had become a major tourist destination.