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Five Books I Want to Read This Summer – Maureen’s Picks

What to read? What to read? Very difficult to pick out five titles and then stick to them. I’m easily distracted, in magpie fashion, by shiny new (and not so new) titles I stumble upon.

I am a sucker for biographies and memoirs. I am especially a sucker for literary biographies. One book that has caught my attention is Cheever: a life by Blake Bailey.

Cheever’s was a soul in conflict: he was a proud Yankee who flaunted his lineage while deploring the provincialism of his Quincy, Massachusetts, family circle; a high-school dropout who published his first story at eighteen; a pioneer of suburban realist fiction who continually pushed the boundaries of realism; a dire alcoholic who recovered to write the great novel Falconer; a secret bisexual who struggled with his longings and his fierce homophobia in a revolving door of self-loathing and hedonism… a man whose demons and desperation were never quite vanquished by the joy he found in his work.” – publisher.

As a rule, I usually only read biographies and memoirs of deceased persons. I do make the occasional exception like in the case of Furious Love by Sam Kashner. This is the story of the passionate love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

Drawing upon brand-new information and interviews—and on Burton’s private, passionate, and heartbreaking letters to Taylor—Furious Love sheds new light on the movies, the sex, the scandal, the fame, the brawls, the booze, the bitter separations, and, of course, the fabled jewels. It offers an intimate glimpse into Elizabeth and Richard’s privileged world and their elite circle of friends… It provides an entertaining, eye-opening look at their films, their wildly lucrative reign in Europe and in Hollywood—and the price they paid for their extravagant lives” – publisher

I am also drawn in by a clever title (does this make me a slave to marketing?). The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender is the story of a girl who can taste the emotions of others in food.

On the eve of her ninth birthday, unassuming Rose Edelstein, a girl at the periphery of schoolyard games and her distracted parents’ attention, bites into her mother’s homemade lemon-chocolate cake and discovers she has a magical gift: she can taste her mother’s emotions in the cake. She discovers this gift to her horror, for her mother—her cheerful, good-with-crafts, can-do mother—tastes of despair and desperation. Suddenly, and for the rest of her life, food becomes a peril and a threat to Rose. The curse her gift has bestowed is the secret knowledge all families keep hidden—her mother’s life outside the home, her father’s detachment, her brother’s clash with the world. Yet as Rose grows up she learns to harness her gift and becomes aware that there are secrets even her taste buds cannot discern.” – publisher

This does sound a bit on the heavy side and I also need a light book to read outdoors, so someone recommended The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death: reflections on revenge, germophobia, and laser hair removal by Laurie Notaro.

Laurie Notaro has an uncanny ability to attract insanity–and leave readers doubled over with laughter. Need proof? Check out The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death and try not to bust a gut. Join Notaro as she experiences the popular phenomenon of laser hair removal (because at least one of her chins should be stubble-free); bemoans the scourge of the Open Mouth Coughers on America’s airplanes and in similarly congested areas; welcomes the newest ex-con (yay, a sex offender!) to her neighborhood; and watches, against her own better judgment, every Discovery Health Channel special on parasites and tapeworms that has ever aired–resulting in an overwhelming fear that a worm the size of a python will soon come a-knocking on her back door. In Notaro’s world, strangers are stranger than fiction.

And finally, no stay at home vacation is complete for me without a new cookbook with which to delight and/or torture my family. This year I may bring home Turkish Meze: The little dishes of the Eastern Mediterranean: a mouthwatering collection of dips, purees, soups, salads and snacks by Ghillie Basan.

A skillful blend of Mediterranean and Asian influences, Turkish food is famous for its fresh, vibrant flavours, excellent seafood and the huge range of delectable titbits that are found on the meze table. This spectacular book opens with a brief introduction to the country and the traditions surrounding the meze table. It then provides a wonderful selection of more than 50 of the best recipes, including dips, purées, salads, soups and savoury snacks as well as sweet treats and jams. Beautifully illustrated with over 300 images and complete with nutritional notes, cook’s tips and variations, this stunning book provides a tantalizing taste of the country’s exotic cuisine.

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