H is for Hawk

h is for hawk jacketH is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald

Historian Helen is shattered by the sudden death of her father, a news photographer. An experienced falconer, she retreats from human society and begins training a young female goshawk, Mabel. Goshawks are bigger and deadlier than other hawks she has handled, and Helen turns to old books on falconry for inspiration, including medieval books and  T. H. White’s memoir, The Goshawk. White, the author of The Once and Future King, is a very unhappy person, although an interesting one, and I would have liked more of Helen’s story and less about White. I wasn’t really sure I wanted to read this well-reviewed book, because I thought it would mostly be about hunting with a hawk. Later in the book, there are detailed hunting scenes, but the book is much more about grief and getting in touch with nature. Mabel is terrified of her new world and Helen needs to become first invisible and then familiar in order to work with her. At one point, Helen is identifying more with the hawk then with her human friends and family, but thankfully she regains some balance. Finishing a research fellowship at Cambridge, Helen explores the land around the university with Mabel, seeing it  from a new perspective. I thought this book was moving, beautifully written, and in parts, a page-turner, as I really wanted to find out what happened with Mabel and Helen.

Brenda

 


My Kitchen Year

reichl jacketMy Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

In October, 2009, Ruth, the editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, was shocked to learn that the publisher was ceasing publication of Gourmet, which debuted in 1941. Even though the December issue was at the printers, and three more issues were planned, no more magazines would be published. Amidst this turmoil, she still has to launch “Adventures with Ruth”, a 10-episode travel and food television show, and go on tour for the brand new Gourmet Today cookbook, which she had edited. In the year that followed, Ruth wrote copy for the Gourmet Cookie Book, and tried to reinvent herself; not easy at 61. With her husband Michael, she spent a very cold and snowy winter at their country house, and decided to sublet their NYC apartment. Used to dining out on an expense account as a food critic, Ruth now has the leisure to visit farmers’ markets and to cook seasonally. Photographs of upstate New York and many recipes add to the appeal of this gorgeous book. Laid up part of the year recovering from an injury, Ruth also begins her first novel, Delicious!, which the Tuesday evening book group is discussing on January 26 at 7:00 p.m. Next I plan to read Garlic and Sapphires, about her life as a food critic, often in disguise.

Wishing you an adventurous year of reading!

Brenda

If you’re looking for more memoirs, check out our book display called “A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels”. Here is the accompanying booklist:

A Year in the Life: Yearlong Projects, Adventures, and Travels

028.8 San Sankovitch, Nina. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair. 2011
028.9 Mil Miller, Andy. The Year of Reading Dangerously. 2014
158 Rub Rubin, Gretchen. The Happiness Project. 2009
158.1 Kir Kirshenbaum, Mira. The Gift of a Year. 2000
158.1 Kra Kravitz, Lee. Unfinished Business. 2015
277.3 She Shea, Suzanne Strempek. Sundays in America. 2008
278.95 Ros Roscher, Ellie. How Coffee Saved My Life. 2009
303.483 Bre Brende, Eric. Better Off. 2004
306.3 Bru Bruno, Dave. The 100 Thing Challenge. 2010
330.973 And Anderson, Maggie. Our Black Year. 2012
331.702 Aik Aiken, Sean. The One-Week Job Project. 2010
332.4 Wol Wolman, David. The End of Money. 2012
338.476 Cle Clemens, Paul. Punching Out. 2011
362.18 Kar Karam, J.A. Into the Breach. 2002
362.21 Vin Vincent, Norah. Voluntary Madness. 2008
365.43 Ker Kerman, Piper. Orange is the New Black. 2011
365.6 Smi Smith, Jeff. Mr. Smith Goes to Prison. 2015
371.1 Bro Brown, Dan. The Great Expectations School. 2007
371.1 Dan Danza, Tony. I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had. 2012
371.1 Foo Foote, Donna. Relentless Pursuit. 2008
382.60951 Bon Bongiorni, Sara. A Year Without “Made in China.” 2007
577.56 Hol Holmes, Hannah. Suburban Safari. 2005
595.78 Pyl Pyle, Robert Michael. Mariposa Road. 2010
598 Kau Kaufman, Kenn. Kingbird Highway. 1997
598.07 Obm Obmascik, Mark. The Big Year. 2004
598.159 Kro Kroodsma, Donald. Birdsong by the Seasons. 2009
599.773 Tha Thayer, Helen. Three Among the Wolves. 2004
610.92 Mcc McCarthy, Matt. The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly. 2015
613.2 Jac Jacobs, A.J. Drop Dead Healthy. 2012
613.2 Law Lawson, Tracey. A Year in the Village of Eternity. 2011
616.83 Spe Spencer-Wendel, Susan. Until I Say Good-Bye. 2013
616.8526 Kuf Kuffel, Frances. Angry Fat Girls. 2010
616.8589 Ell Ellison, Katherine. Buzz: A Year of Paying Attention. 2010
630.092 Kim Kimball, Kristin. The Dirty Life. 2010
630.584 Cha Chaskey, Scott. This Common Ground. 2005
635 Lap Lapp, Laura. An Amish Garden. 2013
635.0484 Bro Brockman, Terra. The Seasons of Henry’s Farm. 2009
636.7 Kat Katz, Jon. A Dog Year. 2002
636.7 Mil Miles, Kathryn. Adventures with Ari. 2009
636.7527 Abr Abramson, Jill. The Puppy Diaries. 2011
640.73 Lev Levine, Judith. Not Buying It. 2006
641.013 Maj Majumdar, Simon. Eat My Globe. 2009
641.3 Gre Greenslate, Christopher. On a Dollar a Day. 2010
641.3 Kin Kingsolver, Barbara. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. 2007
641.5 Erw Erway, Cathy. The Art of Eating In. 2010
641.5 Smi Smith, Alisa. Plenty. 2007
641.552 Mat Mather, Robin. The Feast Nearby. 2011
641.564 Rei Reichl, Ruth. My Kitchen Year. 2015
641.815 Ale Alexander, William. 52 Loaves. 2010
649.1 Wym Wyma, Kay Wills. Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. 2012
664.132 Why Whynott, Douglas. The Sugar Season. 2014
746.432 Mar Martini, Adrienne. Sweater Quest. 2010
788.9 Ree Rees, Jasper. A Devil to Play. 2008
791.43 Rub Rabin, Nathan. My Year of Flops. 2010
795.412 Hol Holden, Anthony. Bigger Deal. 2007
796.352 Fei Feinstein, John. Moment of Glory. 2010
796.357 Sha Shaugnessy, Dan. Senior Year. 2007
796.72 Bec Bechtel, Mark. He Crashed Me, So I Crashed Him Back. 2010
798.2 Hus Husher, Helen. Conversations With a Prince. 2003
798.4 Cho Chong, Kevin. My Year of the Racehorse. 2012
798.4 Smi Smiley, Jane. A Year at the Races. 2004
809 Beh Beha, Christopher. The Whole Five Feet. 2009
818.6 Lan Lancaster, Jen. The Tao of Martha. 2013
910.4 Gil Gilbert, Elizabeth. Eat, Pray, Love. 2006
956.70443 Ste Stewart, Rory. The Prince of the Marshes. 2006
974.7 Roa Roach, Margaret. And I Shall Have Some Peace There. 2011
BIO Han Hancock, Noelle. My Year with Eleanor. 2011
BIO Hel Heller, Peter. Kook. 2010
BIO Loh Loh, Sandra Tsing. The Madwoman in the Volvo. 2014
BIO Mah Mah, Ann. Mastering the Art of French Eating. 2013
BIO Okr Okrant, Robin. Living Oprah. 2008
BIO Oxe Oxenhandler, Noelle. The Wishing Year. 2008
BIO Per Perry, Michael. Coop. 2009
BIO Rhi Rhimes, Shonda. Year of Yes. 2015
BIO Wal Wallace, Danny. Friends Like These. 2009

 

 

 


Empire Antarctica

antarctica jacketEmpire Antarctica: Ice, Silence, and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis

This isn’t the sort of book I usually read in December, but I’m glad I did. Gavin is a young Scottish doctor who is thrilled at the chance to spend 14 months on the Antarctic ice shelf at British research station Halley. He takes passage on a freighter headed there with supplies, via South America. 60 scientists and engineers spend the short Antarctic summer at Halley, along with those there to resupply it and haul away the waste. The station, the fifth at the same location, needs jacking up every summer above the level of the snow. The fourth Halley station is buried under snow, and another eventually fell into the sea. I was interested to learn that a newer Halley station can move horizontally across the snow and ice as needed on skis. Gavis was at Halley from the end of 2002 to the beginning of 2004, as station doctor. Only 14 crew spend the seemingly endless winter together, where time alone on the small station is at a premium and contact with the outside world is rather limited. Gavin is fascinated by emperor penguins, and a colony is wintering nearby. He is also well-informed on the history of Antarctic exploration and shares just enough of this with the reader, allowing more space for observations on the penguins, and on life in the beautiful Antarctic. One of the crew members trades duties to avoid going outside in the frigid winter, but Gavin rather likes shoveling snow into their water tank and watching the stars and the Aurora Australis. I found this to be an absorbing, thoroughly readable memoir.

Brenda

 


Four Seasons in Rome

seasons rome jacket Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr

I really enjoyed reading this memoir of the year the author spent in Rome with his wife Shauna and their twin babies, Henry and Owen. The day the twins were born in Boise, Idaho, Anthony learned that he won the Rome Prize, providing an apartment, a writing studio, and a stipend for a year. He is best known for his Pulitzer prize-winning historical novel All the Light We Cannot See. Part of that novel was written during that year, but Rome kept distracting him. The subtitle is very descriptive: On Twins, Insomnia, and the Biggest Funeral in the History of the World. Their apartment was in walking distance of St. Peter’s Square, and Pope John Paul II died while they were living in Rome. Struggling to communicate in Italian, the family is charmed by the warmth of the Italians they encounter, and stunned by the beauty and history of Rome. The struggles of writing are well detailed, but the main topics are Rome and life with young twins. I plan to read more of Doerr’s stories and essays, especially involving further travels with his family.

Brenda

 


Wide-Open World

wide open jacketWide-Open World by John Marshall

John and Traca Marshall were growing apart. Jackson, 14, wouldn’t put her phone down long enough to talk with her dad, while shy Logan was 17 and headed for college soon. It was time to reconnect, and John dreamed of taking the family and traveling around the world for a year of service. This was not the memoir I was expecting to read. They didn’t have a lot of money, and almost gave up on their dream. Finally, they rented out their Maine house and set out for a half year of volunteering. I thought the trip would be organized well in advance. While the author gives practical tips for other families who’d like to volunteer abroad, including how not to rent out your house, the Marshalls didn’t always know where they were headed next. I expected humor, adventure, illness, and increased closeness of the family. No one got sick although John did get attacked by a monkey in Costa Rica, on more than one occasion. They certainly had adventures, traveling to New Zealand, Thailand, India, and Portugal, and the people and settings they visited sound quite appealing. The teens grew and changed during their travels, and are continuing to travel and volunteer. There are some humorous anecdotes, but the family as a whole didn’t reconnect they way they had hoped and not all of the volunteer experiences were positive. A very honest, reflective memoir of a family who followed their dream to make a difference and see the world.
Brenda


Life is Short

Life is Short (No Pun Intended) by Jennifer Arnold and Bill Kleinlife is short jacket

Bill Klein and his wife Jennifer Arnold have won the hearts of many with their television show “The Little Couple”. Bill, an entrepreneur, and Jennifer, a neonatologist and medical educator, both have dwarfism. Their book shares the stories of their childhoods with loving families and their struggles of dealing with surgery almost every summer growing up. Their health challenges, including recent cancer treatment for Jennifer and spinal surgery for Bill, surpass the challenges of being a little person in a full-sized world. Their engaging story is full of honesty and humor. Entertaining anecdotes include Jennifer starting college in Florida during a hurricane, and Bill’s first car. We learn about their first date, wedding, how they were approached to share their story on television, and hopes of starting a family through surrogacy. Through their television show they hope to raise awareness of dwarfism and help prevent bullying. The reader also learns more about the adoptions of Will from Mongolia and Zoe from India, both toddlers with dwarfism, and the continuing support of their families. An inspiring book which is sure to be popular with their many fans.
Brenda

 

 


Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking

soviet cookingMastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing, by Anya von Bremzen

Anya von Bremzen describes life and food in 20th century Russia, the Soviet Union, and former Soviet republics. Born in Moscow in 1963, Anya and her mother Larisa moved to Philadelphia in 1974. By telling the stories of her grandparents and parents, Anya describes each decade of the 20th century, along with the food popular then. Her Jewish grandmother Liza was from Odessa on the Black Sea, her grandmother Alla was an orphan born in Turkestan and raised by a Bolshevik feminist in Uzbekistan. Her grandfather Naum was an intelligence officer, and her father Sergei helped preserve Lenin’s body through science. Through visits to family with her mother and later travels in the former republics with her boyfriend, Anya immerses the reader in the food and culture of each place and time. Trained as a pianist at Julliard, she became a James Beard award-winning food writer. We learn that standing in lines in Moscow could be a social event, as was the case when her parents met in a line for ballet tickets. The alternating availability and scarcity of various foods, such as bread and corn, could make anyone obsess over food, especially if forced to use a communal kitchen or eat caviar in kindergarten. While I don’t know if I’ll be trying any of the recipes at the end of the book, Anya’s memoir really kept my interest.
Brenda

 


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