Les livres de 2010

One of my goals for 2010 was to read 15 books. I realized that was a silly low number, but yet it was still a weighty one. More than one book a month. I didn't specify anything further about what kinds of books they had to be or that I had to write about them on my blog or anything of the sort, but I keep a list of them in my Evernote account under a note called "Books I read in 2010." Creative, I know.

From time to time, I may post a few of them up here. This is one of those times. Here are the three books I've read so far in 2010 (woo! off to a great start!):

1. Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert
I may have previously written about my obsession with Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, I'm sure I did. Must have been sometime during that very weepy period post-Paris and pre-Brooklyn. EPL made me feel like there was a way to change my life so drastically that it could become good again. There's no more basic way to say it. It kind of saved me.

That's why, a few days into January, I went to Barnes and Noble in Union Square for a reading by Elizabeth Gilbert of her new book. And no less than a week later, Bob and Betsy sent me a copy! (Self reminder: SEND THEM A THANK YOU NOTE!) Committed didn't save my life, but it was a fun and thoughtful read. Gilbert's voice is so familiar and it was seriously a little like sitting down with an old friend.

On a more personal note, I was reading this book during the first few weeks of living with Chris. It was fitting to think about levels of commitment during this navigation of who-hangs-their-bath -towel-where. Maybe for that reason, my favorite chapter in this book was "Marriage and Autonomy." Here are some of my favorite parts:

"Even under the best of circumstances, Felipe has the bad habit of sometimes snapping impatiently at people he feels are either behaving poorly or interfering somehow with the quality of his life. This happens rarely, but I wish it would happen never... I deplore this... People in my family wouldn't even speak this way to a mugger. More-over, whenever I see Felipe fly off the handle in public, it messes around with my cherished personal narrative about what a gentle and tender-hearted guy I have chosen to love, and that, frankly, pisses me off more than anything else. If there is one indignity I shall never endure gracefully, it is watching people mess around with my most cherished personal narratives about them."

Liz, I think we can all relate to wishing that the people we love always did exactly what we expect they should.

"...I was awfully grateful to him for encouraging me to attempt things that are not always entirely safe and that are not always fully explainable and that do not always work out quite as perfectly as I may have dreamed. I am more grateful for that than I can ever say- because, truth be told, I am certain to do this kind of thing again."

This is totally the story of "Jen goes to India and has some rough days and writes emails to Chris, who is perfectly supportive."

I liked this book a lot. I can see myself re-reading it; even in the past few minutes of searching for favorite passages, I was drawn into it again.

2. A Little History of the World by E.H. Gombrich
I saw this book at the bookstore down the street and ordered it from the library, where it has been returned so I can't quote from it. But I think it is enough to say that this book is so fascinating! It gives you the story of all of history in these tiny little bite-sized chapters. I learned so much. For days, I was forever telling people about how Islam was started or that Socrates was Alexander the Great's teacher. It also makes a lot more sense now why France has so many castles!

I gotta say, though- religion has seriously screwed everything up. Since forever.

3. A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Britt and LoSacco gave me this book for my birthday and I read it yesterday. The whole thing. It's this weird sort of cookbook-memoir in which Molly recounts a memory and then follows it with a recipe for a food mentioned in said memory. I was finishing this up around 1am last night and my stomach was growling. I mean, pistachio apricot cake? You're killing me, Wizenberg!

And I just have to say this: is there ANYONE who has become a famous or meaningful person in the cookbook world who has not spent time in Paris? In fact, that's the reason why I knew I needed to live in Paris a few years ago- because after reading A Moveable Feast, I realized that there was no one in the literary world who succeeded without spending time in France's capital. That city, man. It is the capital of EVERYTHING.

Here is one of my favorite parts of Molly's book. Obviously it is related to her relationship with Paris (you saw that one coming):

"I remember saying to people, during that year that I lived alone in Paris, that the city felt like my second home... I'm still not sure where home is. It might be Seattle, though I can't be certain. My second home, though, is always the same. Paris."

Um, Molly, let's be best friends.

"There's been so much said and written about Paris that it's daunting to hazard a statement of my own. That city just has something... it's the place where I've been loneliest, and where I've been happiest. Sometimes I've been both at the same time... It's a place where even crying feels romantic somehow, where heartbreak makes you feel like a part of history. It's who and where, for a long time, I wanted to be."

Amen. And finally:

"Whenever I don't know what to do, Paris is where I've gone."

Dude. Welcome to my life. Welcome to the look my parents get in their eyes each time I tell them I'm moving to France (a look that, admittedly, probably also contains the knowledge that all of my crap is moving back into their garage).

I'd like to think that I'm going to go cook a bunch of the recipes in this book, but the reality is that I'm not really a cook. I might try one of her cakes for someone's birthday, but it doesn't really matter. It was a great read even without the recipes. If I do try something from the book, I'll be sure to post the process here for you to admire.

In conclusion, how weird is it that my first three books were non-fiction? Have you guys read anything in 2010 yet that you adore?


Chris said...

I just want to say that I like these kinds of posts. And I also want to leave work early and go read.

Anonymous said...

Not sure exactly what your reading style is (or if you have one!) but you should try David Lodge's book Deaf Sentence and if you've never read any of his stuff before his book 'Thinks' would probably appeal to your academic literary / computer IT "geek" personalities. Have a good weekend, Ciara

Erica said...

I think you should read "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" by Thornton Wilder ... I read it my freshman year of high school, and it really struck me (esp if i can still remember something about it today, given my terrible memory!). It's about coincidence vs destiny vs fate, and i'd love to hear what you think about it !

Jen said...

Ciara and Erica- just placed holds for both of them at the library. Thanks!

Maddy said...

Jen I've just read a book called 'If on a winter's night a traveller' by an Italian author called Italo Calvino.

It was one of those books that are so insightful and original and intriguing that you're sitting reading it on the tube with a dazed grin plastered to your face in absolute awe of the genius of the writing. Completely recommend it.

Mad xxx

Jen said...

Mad, how crazy is this! I read "Si par une nuit d'hiver un voyager" in a class at the Sorbonne the year we were in Paris together! It was one of two books that we studied in class; the other book was "Les Faux-Monnayeurs" by Gide (the book I wrote my thesis on). If you liked Calvino, you HAVE to read that one. :)