Greek to Me

Greek to Me by Mary Norris

The author of Between You & Me has another fascinating memoir in which she reveals her love of Greek language, classical Greek literature, and describes her travels in Greece and Cyprus. Mary, a copy editor at The New Yorker, is excellent company, and while I’m not interested in learning to read Greek, her travels in Greece make a trip there sound very appealing. A very good choice for armchair travelers, history buffs, and anyone interested in reading about Greek mythology or drama.

Brenda

Whiskey in a Teacup

Whiskey in a Teacup: What Growing Up in the South Taught Me About Life, Love, and Baking Biscuits by Reese Witherspoon

Actor and film producer Reese Witherspoon has written a love letter to life in the south. Reese grew up in Nashville, where she learned to enjoy music, food, and holidays, and learned the importance of manners and community. I listened to the audiobook, cozily narrated by the author, and glanced at the photos and recipes included as a document on one of the discs. Many of the recipes are from her grandmother Dorothea who was an inspiration to Reese on how southern women can be strong and beautiful. Menu suggestions for all kinds of celebrations and events are included, from a Kentucky Derby party to a book club gathering, along with music playlists and gift suggestions (especially monogrammed items or cake plates). Reese talks about her happy childhood, how she learned that you don’t have to be good at everything or bake from scratch, but be sure to be hospitable, respectful, and have some fun, maybe even catch some frogs. This is a charming, family-friendly look at southern life.

Brenda

Educated

Educated by Tara Westover

Tara never attended school before she got a scholarship at 17 to Brigham Young University. She also studied at Harvard and Cambridge, earning a Ph.D. in history. This is her remarkable story of struggle, survival, and achievement. The youngest of seven children raised in rural Idaho by a Mormon survivalist and a homeopathic midwife, Tara was taught to read and to work. I was angry at her parents for neglecting her education, endangering her life in their junkyard and on overnight car trips, but also for not protecting her from an abusive sibling. Remarkably, two of her brothers also have Ph.D.s and helped Tara escape the mountains and learn to tell her story. Compulsively readable and utterly heartwrenching, this memoir is a good readalike for Jeannette Walls’ books.
Brenda

Rediscovering Travel

Rediscovering Travel: A Guide for the Globally Curious by Seth Kugel

I enjoyed reading stories about Seth Kugel’s travel adventures, and learned some useful advice for future travel. He wrote the Frugal Traveler column for the New York Times for several years, and speaks Spanish, Portuguese, and some French. His suggestions are to spend more time in fewer places, to skip top attractions if they don’t really appeal to you, get suggestions from locals and fellow travelers, save some time on your trip for spontaneity, and try to be in the moment, not staring at your phone. Be skeptical of reviews and don’t spend more money than you need to for an enjoyable vacation. Many interesting anecdotes make for a quick read; suggested for armchair travelers and global explorers.

Brenda

 

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Stephen Brusatte

How many dinosaur species can you name? If it’s more than a few, you are likely to enjoy this terrific mix of memoir and popular science. Young paleontologist Brusatte travels the globe introducing the reader to other scientists and their exciting finds. I learned that Tyrannosaurus Rex fossils have been found only in western North America, and they were pretty smart, but couldn’t outrun a car. Some dinosaurs had feathers, and European dinosaurs were smaller than elsewhere. Brusatte, from Ottawa, Illinois, clearly has the job of his dreams, as this is the golden age of dinosaur research, with a new species of dinosaur discovered every week, on average. Perfect for fans of popular science or readers of Michael Crichton’s novel Dragon Teeth.

Brenda

 

The Milk Lady of Bangalore

The Milk Lady of Bangalore: An Unexpected Adventure by Shoba Narayan

When Shoba, a journalist, and her husband Ram move from New York City to the southern Indian city of Bangalore, she is intrigued by the cows in her neighborhood. Shoba makes the acquaintance of Serala, the local milk lady. When her family, including two daughters, aren’t interested in drinking raw milk, Shoba boils the milk and makes yogurt and ghee. Gradually, she gets interested in the role of cows in south Indian culture, and decides to write some articles. Serala and her family guide Shoba, especially when Shoba and Ram decide to buy a cow in honor of their fathers for upcoming birthday celebrations. While I was only expecting to read about cows and dairy products, Shoba also relates the uses of cow urine and dung. A touching chapter explores the difficulty of placing a male calf in mostly vegetarian south India. In this vivid, heartwarming memoir and travelogue, Shoba, Serala and the cows are very good company.
Brenda

Option B

Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant

After Sheryl Sandberg’s husband Dave died, she worried that her two children wouldn’t have a happy childhood. Part memoir and part self-help book, co-authored with psychology professor and author Adam Grant, this book is full of case studies of people who’ve experienced great loss and how they’ve recovered and become more resilient. Raw and intimate, Sandberg’s account of her husband’s sudden death and the aftermath is moving. Facebook executive Sandberg admits she never appreciated the difficulty of being a single parent, although she has a large network of family and friends, a supportive boss, and is very wealthy. I’m not sure that someone who’s just lost a family member would find comfort in this book, but those who are wondering when and how they’ll recover might, along with people who want to support them. Sandberg appreciated when people asked, “How are you today?” and didn’t avoid talking about her loss. Sandberg talks about what she learned about grief and resilience, and how she and the kids got through their first year without Dave.
Brenda