29. The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by Dan Barber
I read this book for one of my book clubs. Chef Dan Barber looks at the future of eating and how we need to move on to the third plate, which focuses more on vegetables with only a small bit of meat to support them in order to provide a healthier and more sustainable food ecosystem. Essentially it’s a twist on the trend of books and restaurants based on farm-to-table dining. He visits various farms and farmers who are creating more sustainable agriculture in a way that is less limited than the idea of people shopping at farmers’ markets, which seem to dominate in the farm-to-table discussions. Although I agree that we need a better, healthier, and more sustainable agricultural ecosystem I’m not sure his ideas are really any more capable of providing a real solution on a global or even country-wide scale than traditional farm-to-table plans are. It was an interesting read nonetheless though. If you enjoy books about this subject area or food writing in general I would recommend it. I give it a 7 out of 10.
28. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City by Alice Goffman
Alice Goffman turned a thesis into this book, so it is more academic in nature than not. She spent six years doing an ethnographic study of the “Sixth Street Boys” in Philadelphia. Based on her time spent with them in their neighborhood she presents the ways that the war on drugs and policing methods have resulted in a population that is continually on the run. It was an interesting look at the cycle that keeps particularly inner-city African-American males caught in the legal system. It did seem at times that she went beyond being an ethnographic observer and got overly involved with the community in a way that blurred her objectivity. She spends a large portion at the end of the book turning away from the more academic reporting of her observations to relating her personal experiences and opinions. It makes it more accessible I suppose for the lay reader, but makes it less of an actual academic work. I give it a 6 out of 10.
27. Dylan Goes Electric!: Newport, Seeger, Dylan, and the Night that Split the Sixties
2015 marks the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan playing an electric set at the Newport Folk Festival, something that still lives on as a big moment in the festival’s history and in the history of popular music. The book details Bob Dylan’s history as well as talks about the nature of the Newport Folk Festival, how it had grown, his relationship to other artists, and what actually happened on that night and its legacy. Despite my interest in the subject, this book didn’t really hold my attention. I think it wound up being more of a Dylan biography than I was expecting. I give it 5 out of 10.
26. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
My book club is currently doing a theme of books by non-American authors. I had heard a lot of really great things about Americanah, so when it was my turn to host this is the book I chose. It turned out to be an excellent selection. Even though I’m the only one who managed to finish it before the meeting (it’s long and our date got moved up) we still had ample content to talk about. The book is really rich in its examination of cultural experiences and the differences between African-Americans and non-American Blacks.
The book centers around Ifemelu and Obinze who fall in love in Nigeria but who then separate when she emigrates to America and he eventually winds up as an undocumented immigrant for a time in London. The book chronicles both of their experiences living in foreign countries under completely different circumstances. The book also includes blog posts written by Ifemelu chronicling the differences she sees between African-Americans and non-American Blacks. I found the blog posts to be one of the best parts of the book.
I was less enthused about the love story aspects of the book especially since that’s what drove the ending of the story. I felt like the book had so much more important things to say that the love story just didn’t seem to fit for me at least in the prominent position it was sometimes given. Overall though, this was a fantastic book and I definitely plan on going back and reading some of the author’s other works.
25. Ruby by Cynthia Bond
I really disliked this book and don’t even feel like writing up a full review it. If you want to know what it’s about go read a synopsis of it. I really didn’t care for anything about it. I give it a 2 out of 10.
24. The Ice Twins by S.K. Tremayne
It’s been one year since Sarah and Angus lost one of their twin daughters to a freak accident. They’re still trying to pick up the pieces of the shattered life and decide to move out to a remote Scottish island left to them by Angus’ grandmother to help rebuild their family. The only problem is that now their surviving daughter Kirstie tells them that she’s not actually Kirstie, she’s really Lydia the daughter they thought had died. The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Sarah and Angus who both seem to have secrets and reasons to distrust each other. Meanwhile their daughter is becoming more and more disturbed.
I liked the premise of this book more than I liked the book itself. I just didn’t really care for where the story went. It had some horror aspects to it, but it wasn’t really a horror story. I wish it had been more realistic. I give it a 5 out of 10.
23. The DUFF: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger
Bianca has never been a fan of her womanizing classmate Wesley, and her hatred of him grows even more when he tells her that she’s the Duff (designated ugly fat friend) of her friend group. When things at home go downhill with her mother filing for divorce and her father starting to drink again after many years being sober, Bianca decides she needs a distraction and winds up making out with Wesley. Now it turns out that Wesley may not be the guy she thought he was. Could she actually be falling for the guy she hated so much?
I read this book after I saw that it was coming out as a movie. I still haven’t seen the movie, but I would like to eventually. I think it could make a really good teen flick. I thought the book was a good teen love story as far as these things go. I give it a 6 out of 10.
22. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
I feel like I kept hearing such great things about this book but had just never gotten around to reading it when I got my hands on a galley of the Atkinson’s next book which continues the story from one of the secondary characters in this book. That finally got me to pick this one up, but I hated it so much that I didn’t even bother reading the second one.
I guess the conceit is that the main character Ursula dies over and over again reliving her life in slightly different ways each time it repeats. I had a hard time even following when she necessarily died as it wasn’t always explicit. I could never get into the book and it went on seemingly forever. I give it a 4 out of 10.
21. Apple and Rain by Sarah Crossan
Apple’s mother abandoned her with her grandmother when she was a small child, but after eleven years away comes back into her life claiming she wants to be her mother again. Apple is soon surprised to discover that she has a younger half-sister, Rain, who she winds up taking care of as her mother disappears more and more.
The kids in this book are heartbreaking dealing with the struggles their mother puts them through and their desire just to have her love them and be their mother. Also, as an adult reading a young adult novel I’m also wanting to shake Apple and be like why will you not just go to your grandmother and tell her how bad things are. You’re being ridiculous. Definitely a case of something that may be more appealing to the teen readers that it’s aimed at. I give it a 6 out of 10.