The Week in Books 2008, No. 31

When I decided to change my blog design and to re-subtitle it “Reflections of a Contemplative Mother,” Josh suggested I google “Contemplative Mother” to make sure no one else was using that phrase. I found a bunch of websites about the Virgin Mary, and the Amazon listing for The Contemplative Mom: Restoring Rich Relationship with God in the Midst of Motherhood by Ann Kroeker. I had seen Ann’s blog linked on other blogs a few times in the past, and decided to read her book. The book was thought-provoking and encouraging, and I’d recommend it to mothers who struggle with finding time and energy to keep up a deep spiritual walk. Even if you make your devotional life a priority, the book will probably still have many useful suggestions and food for thought for you.

I’ve blogged before about Bernard Cornwell and his engrossing and meticulously researched historical novels about Britain. Sword Song: The Battle for London is Cornwell’s latest installment in his series on the days of King Alfred and the Vikings and it did not disappoint me. Cornwell stays true to the times – they were full of battles and filthiness and clashes between Christianity and paganism – but does not sink to cheap or tawdry scenes and keeps up a rollicking pace throughout the narrative. Cornwell’s sense of pace and ability to keep up a long saga without letting it drag is admirable, and I would recommend his various series on Britain, particularly this series on King Alfred and an earlier series on King Arthur.

After reading an article in World Magazine about graphic novels and how they are the new thing in books, I decided to try one. (Updated to add: “graphic novel” just means “a really long comic book” – some people asked me about that so I thought I should clarify) I picked Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
by Marjane Satrapi because the Iranian Revolution interests me, but I was fairly disappointed in the book. Although the story had the potential to be compelling, in that Satrapi was telling about her childhood during a time of upheaval in Iran, the medium of a comic book diminished the story in my view, rendering it flat and too pared-down, where I think a more narrative form would have allowed her to get at the emotions and details more thoroughly and convincingly. The addition of comic book style illustrations didn’t do much to advance the story or add much in the way of detail or emotion, and thus I found the book to be less than I had hoped. It was a very fast read, since there wasn’t much there, but I really hope graphic novels are not the future of books because I’m just not that into them.

Honestly, I didn’t get any recipes from Vegetable Harvest
that I felt like trying, but I did enjoy the narrative sections about Patricia Wells’ culinary life in France, as well as the interesting historical and folklore anecdotes about particular vegetables and dishes, and the colloquial phrases in French based on vegetables that she sprinkled throughout the book. I’d say “Vegetable Harvest” is a good cookbook if you enjoy reading cookbooks that contain more than simply recipes.

Along the same lines, Chez Panisse Cooking covers far more information than just recipes, and would be of particular interest to readers who are concerned with organic and seasonal eating.

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