The Book Jam Blog
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This week each Lisa decided to pick just ONE book we are excited to tell EVERYONE to read. Surprisingly enough we did; we actually narrowed our reading lives and each picked only one book we think you should read ASAP. ENJOY! And, Happy Martin Luther King Day.
When We Were Vikings by Andrew David Macdonald (2020) - I am so looking forward to putting this book in the hands of everyone I know when it is finally published next week on January 28, 2020. To sum, this book lovingly, and with great prose and plot, reminds us that we are all legends of our own making. The heroine, Zelda, has some significant health difficulties, and she knows they stem from fetal alcohol syndrome (even if she isn't exactly certain what that means). She also has a fierce determination to live her life boldly and an obsession with Vikings (the historical ones, not the football team) helps her in this quest. This book starts with her 21st birthday party and slowly unfolds to show how she and her brother Gert navigate, as young adults, the honestly crappy hand life has dealt them: dead mother, absent father, abusive uncle, and poverty - just to name a few obstacles. When Gert, who is trying to both take care of the two of them and keep his college scholarship, makes some pretty poor choices, Zelda rises to the occasion with help from a superb librarian (love a book with a helpful librarian), a great social worker, and Gert's strong-minded on-again/off-again girlfriend - AK47. You will cheer for Zelda every step of the way and be a bit sad when you leave her orbit at the end. I find it hard to believe this is Mr. Macdonald's debut novel; both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly agree. ~ Lisa Christie
Good Husbandry: Growing Food, Love, and Family on Essex Farm by Kristin Kimball (2019) - If you’re in the (farmer’s) market for a mid-winter read that inspires you to start thinking about the greener days ahead and picking up your farm share come summer, then this is the book for you. Kristin Kimball’s second memoir (which is as good if not even better than her first The Dirty Life - see a Book Jam review here from the days when we had a podcast) is a compulsively readable and an incredibly beautifully written account of her time growing a marriage, a family, and a CSA farm that feeds 250 people in New York State. When we initially met the author in 2011 with the publication of her first book, Kimball, then a city dweller and travel writer in her thirties, had unexpectedly embraced the rural life after meeting and falling in love with both farming and with Mark. Now almost a decade has passed and both she and the story have matured. She doesn’t shy away from sharing the challenges faced raising two young girls while trying to manage the increasing debt and the risky odds that come with farming. Nor does she ignore the building tension in her marriage as she and her husband adjust to parenthood and the never ending work of a diversified farm that leaves little time for their relationship. Instead, Kimball thoroughly explores these difficult topics with grace and wisdom, growing a story -and a life - full of awareness and insight. At certain points, Kimball’s prose and perspective on the natural world reminded me of the poetry of Mary Oliver. Her stewardship and environmental ethic called to mind Rachel Carson or Terry Tempest Williams. And at others, her food sense and the descriptions of heavenly meals around her farm table made me think of a rustic Ruth Reichl. But she is a brilliant voice in her own right. Don’t miss this book. Read it and Eat (local). ~Lisa Cadow
Welcome to a fresh new decade. Somehow, 2020 has inspired us to look for new ideas and habits and travels. And when we are looking, we turn to books. Here a few we found that we hope will have us thinking, doing, seeing, and acting with a slightly new lens. Not because we think resolutions are a must, but more because we know viewing the world and people with a new lens (even if only every once in awhile) is a spectacular thing. Happy 2020 from the Book Jam (even though all of today's picks are selected by Lisa Cadow)!
A Year of Good Eating by Nigel Slater (2015) - Oh how I would love to spend a year in British food writer Nigel Slater’s kitchen. Savoring this book over the next twelve months just may be the next best thing. Readers should be aware that Slater is not shy about incorporating meat and cheese into his dishes (especially in deep winter) but they should also know that he is artful and elegant in his approach. He makes short ribs sing with honey and cauliflower purée, and he makes lamb hearty with beer and shallots. These 250 recipes read like cozy journal entries and pull readers into Slater’s flavorful world which is full of inspired meals, a veggie garden, and an old stone house. Just reading the erudite prose would be enough, but his writing is inspirational. I already want to make the New Year’s Day Poppyseed Crisp Bread and can’t wait for July when the diary pages are full of “courgettes” - British English for zucchini - encrusted with black olives, Parmesan, rosemary, and breadcrumbs and with aubergine - British English for eggplant - and melted Mozzarella drizzled with basil infused oil. I can tell that it is going to be quite a delicious year. ~Lisa Cadow
Year of Wonder: Classical Music to Enjoy Day by Day by Clemency Burton-Hill (2018) - My husband and I have been having a rich and melodious time over the past week enjoying this book together each day. Author Burton-Hill, a host on BBC radio, has brilliantly curated a varied and fascinating collection of 366 classical works that take the reader on a journey to learn about the wonders of classical music. Her page-long descriptions of the pieces are informative and full of fun facts and allow readers to consider and discuss pieces as they listen (works are easily pulled up on YouTube or Spotify). New Year’s Day started off with Bach’s Mass in B Minor (did you know that Bach wrote over 3,000 pieces and had 20 children?) and tonight we will listen to Poulenc’s “Les Chemins de l’Amour (January 7, 1899 was Poulenc’s birthdate). We already feel enriched by this book and feel lucky to be sharing this musical learning experience over the year to come. After only one week, we would give this book a standing ovation. ~Lisa Cadow
Afoot and Lighthearted: A Journal for Mindful Walking by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse (2019) - “Solvitur Ambulando.” Translated from the Latin, this phrase roughly means ”it is solved by walking.” As an avid perambulator, I couldn’t agree more with this premise. This lovely little book walks the reader through ways to be more present, to ease anxiety, to inspire creativity, to increase productivity, and to step away from their phones. It also includes interesting exercises and spaces for written reflection. A wonderful gift for yourself to encourage a more active and mindful year or for the friend you know who loves to take a stroll to help solve it all. Whether or not you decide to bring this book into your life, be sure to remember as you step into 2020 that “there is pleasure in the pathless woods” (Lord Byron). ~Lisa Cadow