Log in

No account? Create an account
N in azaleas


So, I'm getting ready to go on my first-ever cruise. To Alaska. I'm really excited, but I'm looking for some good vacation reading.

I like character-driven, witty fiction and fascinating, well-written non-fiction. To me, examples of authors of the former include Rex Stout, Lois Bujold, Ursula LeGuin, Kerry Greenwood, Robert Heinlein (yes, yes, I'm turning in my feminist card, but really, I *loved* The Star Beast), Georgette Heyer, Donna Andrews. In the latter category go books like _Home_ (a history of the concept of "home"), the Durant histories, _The Tipping Point_, _Freakanomics_, some biographies.

I should mention, at this point in my life, I like happy endings. For tragedies, my filter is much more critical. If it's not at the _King Lear_, Cyrano, or _A Day in the Life of Ivan Ivanovitch_, I'm not interested.



In non-fiction, I recommend:

  • The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson - may be considered a tragedy, even though it's non-fiction, because it's partly about a serial killer. Alternating chapters about the design/execution of the Chicago World's Fair and Dr. H.H. Holmes, who was a serial killer operating in Chicago at that time. BEST non-fiction I've ever read. Engaging like a novel. Loved it.

  • The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan - Since you're trying to be healthier, I highly recommend these books about our screwed up food systems. The former is much thicker, and is more an analysis of what's out there. The latter is more of a, "Here's how to eat like a sane human being," book. So the latter might be more interesting than the former. But I loved both.

  • Plenty - a book by the Canadian couple who "invented" the 100-Mile Diet. Again, a great book for rethinking how we eat and where we get our food. Well written, with the coupld taking alternate chapters, and sometimes airing their beefs with one another through them. :)

  • Life Is Meals - a year-long celebration of all things culinary, with 365 entries about food, meals, and other tidbits. I loved this book. Again, read it like a novel. Fantastic stuff for foodies.

    That's all I can think of off of the top of my head.

    Have fun on your cruise! Jealous!
  • I heartily second Omnivore's Dilemma.

    I would also add What to Eat by Marion Nestle, but it might be too heavy for a vacation.

    Those IMO should be required reading for anyone who eats.

    Pollan quotes Marion Nestle with great frequency. :) Once I figured out that he wasn't quoting the head of the Nestle corporation, I decided that was a book I needed to read at some point, too.
    Sharon Shinn: The Safe-Keeper's Secret, the Truth-Teller's Tale, the Wish-Bringer's Magic; also Summers at Castle Auburn.

    Lisa Lutz, the Spellman Files

    Stop by Murder by the Book and let them recommend to you, especially from their house imprint, Busted Flush Press.
    I do love MBTB; it's how I discovered Kerry G. and Orland Outland. I need a new copy of _Summers at Castle Auburn_. Bonus points for not suggesting Shinn's Jane Eyre book (Jemma Starsomething?).

    Thanks for the suggestions.
    Jenna Starborn.
    You're welcome to borrow our copy of Castle Auburn, though it's one we'd want back, not a read-and-abandon-on-boat thing.
    This is where I always recommend Swordspoint, by Ellen Kushner, if you haven't read it yet. Also the sequel The Privilege of the Sword, but not the other sequel The Fall of the Kings until you're willing to cope with a darker ending (although not Lear-level tragedy). Swordspoint is my favorite book EVER.

    You might also like The Porcelain Dove by Delia Sherman.

    Have you read any Elizabeth Bear?

    As for non-fiction, I just recently read The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson -- an account of a cholera epidemic in Victorian London, with a focus on epidemiology. It's really interesting.
    I second Swordspoint, which is in my desert island reads.

    Maybe some of the incident- or item-based social histories? Like Kurlanksy's histories of cod or salt (one or the other; they cover a lot of the same ground).
    I love those books, as well.
    Argh, that would be me forgetting I'm in an RP journal.

    I should have let you run through my shelf and take some social histories with you this weekend. Would you like me to grab a few and try to have lunch on Wednesday?
    I do like Swordspoint. I do not like Elizabeth Bear - no accounting for taste, I suppose.

    I'll look for the Sherman.

    Thanks for the thoughts!
    Bear's a friend of mine, so I felt I ought to mention her. I liked Blood and Iron better than the Jenny books, fwiw, and Ink and Steel is about Shakespeare and Marlowe, so might be worth a try even if you didn't like the others.
    Not sure who it was who recommend the author to us, so if it was you please re-imagine this as gushing over the recommendation.

    Kelley Armstrong has a good series in the supernatural fiction section. She manages to keep it from being another infinitely long single main character series by actually splitting off to write from several different main characters. The voice of Bitten is the world's only female werewolf- that voice has 3 books- two at the chronological start of the series, and a third that's actually the 5th (might be the 6th, I'm still trying to determine where Haunted is since I can't find it) book. A witch (who was a side character in the second book) voices the third and fourth books.

    Very good- each is pretty well self contained although the supernatural underworld is a small enough place that you find yourself constantly running into the same cast as you go and they're written chronologically.
    I think I've read those and run hot and cold on them. I remember thinking _Bitten_ intriguing but not liking the entire series.

    Thanks for the suggestion!
    Soft fantasy nerd alert:

    With utter bias I recommend Jim Butcher's Dresden Files novels. The endings are ... happyish? Somewhat? Well. Anyway. Ditto Steven Brust's Taltos novels, although he occasionally goes for some outright bummers. On the other hand, the Dumas-inspired Phoenix Guards pentalogy is unreservedly joyful and I commend it to your attention... if you're into berserkly wordy stuff like Dumas. :) (Of course, I also recommend the Musketeer novels themselves!)
    Of the Butcher novels I think you'd prefer his Codex Alera series.
    Strangely - again that taste thing! - I love Dresden and do not care for the Codex. Could not get past the first chapter in the first three times I tried. I think Butcher uses more humor in the Dresden novels. Plus, it has a cat that acts like a cat and a large Foo puppy that acts like a ..big, guardian puppy.

    I love Dumas, so I'd be happy to try the Phoenix Guards.
    Here's a secret that I guess won't be anymore: Jim's an old friend and I couldn't get through the first Codex Alera either. :) It's just Not My Thing. I of course assume that it is excellent for what it is.

    I predict you will enjoy the Phoenix Guards. The turns of phrases the characters use... watch out that you don't start talking like them. It's hard to resist. :)
    Read the Omnivore's Dilemma this summer--a definite must read!

    For something a little lighter, though, a friend just introduced me to the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear. If you haven't read them, I think they will be right up your alley. Same historical time period as Phryne. : ) I'll bring the first one on Saturday.
    They are up my alley! I've read many of them, though Maisie left me in tears. Beautifully written. Gorgeous!
    Several people recommended Pollan's books - he's a good read but you might not want a book that makes you feel guilty about food while on a cruise. Instead I recommend Pollan's earlier book, The Botany of Desire, which is an interesting discussion about how certain plants (apples, tulips, marijuana) have evolved to have appeal for humans, which means humans deliberately cultivate them - all of which amounts to an interestingly successful evolutionary strategy. You're welcome to borrow our copy, of course.

    Sometimes when I travel to a place, I enjoy reading Michener's incredibly long rambling books about the place. So I read Michener's Hawaii book while on those islands, for example. It gave interesting musings about the sights I was seeing. I see that Michener's got one about Alaska, which no doubt you could pick up cheap at half-price or used off Amazon.com...
    Jealousy Jealousy Jealousy!!!

    Some fiction I've read recently and would highly recommend:

    "People of the Book" by Geraldine Brooks
    Tracing the history of the Sarajevo Haggadah thru objects found in it - surprisingly character driven

    The "Study" trilogy by Maria V. Snyder
    Poison Study
    Magic Study
    Fire Study
    Fantasy series about a young woman who becomes a food taster to avoid execution and finds she has magic powers.

    "Mistress of the Art of Death" and "Serpent's Tale" by Ariana Franklin. 13th century female Sicilian medical examiner is called to England to investigate murders. Really well written.

    I'm not a big reader of non-fiction, but I second the suggestion of Michael Pollan's books. "Omnivore's Dilemma" really changed my thinking. If you like essays and humor I highly recommend David Sedaris and Sarah Val. I've also heard good things about "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver.

    Have fun on your trip, whatever you read.

    - Melissa
    I love Synder's books.

    It's my first 2 week vacation in 10 years. I'm really excited!
    N in azaleas

    September 2009

    S M T W T F S
    Powered by LiveJournal.com