Word Up #1

I laugh a little when I see the requisite summer reading lists. With my gaggle of goobers, the first half of the summer was spent making plans for the rest of the summer, the second half of the summer has been spent in preparation for September. I didn't get much summer reading done.

I remember my singleton summer days. I had a great job where when I was on the road(which was often) they worked my like a horse, but when I was home it was a different story entirely. I'd work from home many days and leave the office, when I did go in, no later than 3pm. So I had hours upon hours of time to spend lazing in the sun or under a shady tree with a good book or seven. If a book was particularly engrossing, I'd stay up all night finishing it, turning page after page as I stretched across my bed until I no longer needed the lamp to read by.

I am a voracious reader, always have been. I was a only child so my best mates were generally books. Reading made me a precocious child. My parents, just seventeen and nineteen when I graced them wit my presence, never thought to limit what books I had access to. I read everything I could get my hands on. There's nothing like a little Stephen King, Harold Robbins and Michael Crichton to get an eight year old thinking. Not to mention the Alex Comfort I would get my hands on a few years later. I credit all that reading for my sense of humour and my vocabulary. Reading is the reason I can write.

My tastes run the gamut, fiction, non-fiction, travel, scientific, crime, humor, sexuality, biographies, business, investing, child development, you name it. Give me a an O'Henry collection of short stories and I'll be your new best friend. Pass along something like Freakonomics or the Tipping Point and I will immediately ignore you to start reading. I've never read much science fiction, well, unless you count the Choose Your Own Adventure books of my youth. I have yet to pick up any sports biographies and Westerns were never my thing. Pretty much everything else graces my reading list.

I just bought a slew of the books I enjoyed as a child. The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Island of the Blue Dolphins, A Wrinkle in Time, M.C. Higgins the Great, Watership Down, no Harold Robbins for my kids just yet. I can't wait to share with them books that though I read some 25 years ago, are still firmly affixed in my memory.

I was recently asked by a friend of mine for my summer recommendations. Between the bebe, the bustle of summer, and the spa, I have only picked up a few newly published books. I do however, have a cache of favorites that like the handful of books I'm reading to my kids, still own real estate in my cluttered and overtaxed noggin. Until school starts and I can get back to regular reading, here are my first ever Formerly Fun Word Up Awards. It's my blog and I can give away dumb, made-up awards, everyone else does. So here's the first of the bunch.

The Formerly Fun Word Up Awards

Best Travel/Food Book Written By A Bitter, Hot, Acerbicly Hilarious, Chef, Ex-Heroin Addict
A Cook's Tour: Global Adventures in Extreme Cuisine-Anthony Bourdain
Often referred to as cooking's bad boy and a gastronomic Indiana Jones, Anthony Bourdain(who also hosts No Reservations on the Food Network) is sophisticated and brutish at the same time. In a Cook's Tour he canvasses the world for the best meal eva taking him to places like Russia, Cambodia, Japan, Glasgow, London all with a camera crew in tow catching his every drunken escapade, cultural moments and missteps. This is one of those books where you want to have the guy for dinner, pick his brain and let him get you drunk and make you laugh(and have your way with him if you weren't married). He is pompous and self-deprecating. He will also eat anything, my kind of guy.

Best Collection of Humor Essays By A Surprisingly Shy Gay Man Who Made Me Cackle In A Room Full of People While Everyone Else Was Silent
Me Talk Pretty One Day-David Sedaris
I saw him at a reading in a small auditorium last year, it was a beloved Christmas gift from my husband. Sedaris was so funny and in the dim light I forgot I wasn't alone and laughed out loud several times when no one else was laughing(I do this quite a bit at movies too). I was a little embarrassed but it was well worth it for the pleasure of hearing him read his own work. Me Talk Pretty One Day refers to one of my favourite stories where he relates how he(after moving to France with his beaux)and his fellow students try to communicate amongst each other in a French language class while trying to explain Easter to a Muslim student through the various multiple language barriers. It's one of his best essays and if you don't laugh out loud reading it, you are dead on the inside.

Best Book If You Want to Know Why Alien Abductions are a Mass Hallucination, Why Spoonbending Is Ridiculous and Faithhealing Absurd From A Scientist Infused With Enough Wonder to Put These Things Up to the Scrutiny of the Scientific Method
The Demon Haunted World:Science As A Candle In the Dark-Carl Sagan
For Carl Sagan, Cornell astrophysicist and famed creator of Cosmos on PBS, skepticism and wonder went hand in hand(he died in 1996). In the Demon Haunted World, Sagan tells us why science does not destroy spirituality, smartly debunks various elements of pseudoscience urging critical thinking without ever losing his sense of wonder and quest for the true and real. The struggle to bring scientific knowledge to the masses was a preoccupation of his. Like any great teacher, he explains difficult concepts in understandable terms and even posthumously, he continues to capture the imagination of many.

Best Science Writing For People Who Want Someone Else To Pick The Good Stuff That's Accessible and Readable By The Non-Academic So That Maybe You Can Finally Understand Global Warming and Discuss It From a Platform of Actually Knowing Something About It

The Best American Science Writing- multiple authors
Want to know what makes people gay? Want to know the disturbing consequences of the ever lengthening human life-span? Want to know about the Theory of Everything, big balls these scientists, can you imagine saying, yes, I think I've finally come up with the theory of everything. Want to look like a giant smarty pants to your friends? Issued each year, these collections of writing make the modern work of science relative and salient to the non-scientist interested in the world around us.

More awards to come, in the meantime, I'm always looking for new authors or those gems that some people manage to find. What are your favourites? What are you reading right now? Come on, don't hold out on me, don't boggart your literature man.

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Anonymous said... August 19, 2008 at 4:22 PM  

I adore David Sedaris. So, so good.

Best thing I've read lately was "As The Crow Flies" by Ann-Marie MacDonald. It's not new, probably 5 years old, but I found a copy at a used book store. Oh holy crap, was it good.

Anonymous said... August 20, 2008 at 12:20 AM  

I think I can count on two hands how many books I've finished since Z was born. I didn't anticipate that.

Love Sedaris. Could suggest some great pop science for you - try Jared Diamond as a start. Currently reading Tony Parsons' first novel - fantastic.

Gypsy said... August 20, 2008 at 9:44 AM  

My fiance the chef dislikes Bourdain now, after seeing him make carbonara with meatballs, not to mention discovering that Bourdain didn't know how to make pasta from scratch. Alas.

Sedaris, however, is delightful. Love him.

Anonymous said... August 20, 2008 at 10:11 AM  

Island of the Blue Dolphins! I so loved that book as a child. I think I must have read it at least a hundred times. I kept yapping about that book that my Mom went and bought me a hardcover edition of it (this happened last year; I was 45). Love ya, Mom!

I always refer readers to the Outlander series by Diana Gabaldon. So much in those books to love.

Arizaphale said... August 21, 2008 at 6:57 AM  

"I can't wait to share with them books that though I read some 25 years ago, are still firmly affixed in my memory."
Yup, that's how I feel about 'The Carpetbaggers'.

My best holiday read recently was 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Night Time'. All you ever wanted to know about autism, from the inside.

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