Friday, November 25, 2011

Down Time

This week Don & I are with my family in Texas. This is nice because we have been cooked three full Thanksgiving dinners (which is what happens when your family is as fragmented as mine) & I've gotten to spend lots of time with my two nephews, one recently eight & one just born last week.


(Can you tell which is which?)

After our many Thanksgiving dinners, we found this place:

Hall's GroceryMy family are mostly tee-totalers, so we had a hankering for some good beer and / or wine and maybe some cocktails. In general there is not a ton of selection around here as far as these things go, but a little research turned up Hall's Grocery. Yes, it looks more like a backroads gas station than anything else, but it turns out that they have a pretty extensive selection of wine, beer, and spirits. This is apparently *the* place to go for variety, and we were not disappointed.

Among other things, we came home with a bottle of Wild Horse pinot noir (~$25), which we had with Thanksgiving leftovers:

wild horse

(Wild Horse is one of the wineries we occasionally visit when we're down in Paso Robles.)

We got things to make Manhattans, side cars, and margaritas, which were all quite tasty. My nephew requested a virgin margarita, which he apparently enjoyed a lot.

virgin marg

Virgin margarita - juice from 1 lime, a splash of orange juice, & a good drizzle of agave nectar; shake with ice & strain into vessel of choice.

I've been running a little while I'm here, but nothing too strenuous. It's been particularly difficult because there are 3 dogs in my mom's house, and as much as I love them, I become mildly allergic to them when I've been away for a while. This means sneezing, itchy eyes & throat, & yes, you guessed it, asthma.


CooperOther than taking it pre-emptively when I run, I can often go months without needing to use my inhaler. While I've been here I've been using it more like 4-5 times a day. This makes running REALLY difficult.

But I'm not stressing about it too much. <10 days out from CIM, I'm mostly just trying to stay loose & keep the dust off my legs. This leaves a lot of down time, which I've spent catching up on some reading. I recently finished the first two books in Guillermo del Torro's vampire trilogy, The Strain & The Fall. GdT's vampires are not sexy or star-crossed or "vegetarians" and certainly do not sparkle but they will absolutely fuck you up.

I don't have the 3rd book with me, so instead I've started this one:

long dark tea time of the soulFrom The Wikipedia: "The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a 1988 humorous fantasy detective novel by Douglas Adams (of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame). It is the second book by Adams featuring private detective Dirk Gently, the first being Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency. The title is a phrase which appeared in Adams' novel Life, the Universe and Everything to describe the wretched boredom of immortal being Wowbagger, the Infinitely Prolonged, and is a play on the theological treatise Dark Night of the Soul, by Saint John of the Cross."

I went to update my GoodReads and got sucked into perusing my 'to-read' shelf, which currently contains over 150 books. I love reading, but don't do as much of it these days as I'd like (hence the accumulation of 156 titles on the 'to-read' shelf). Every time I read through the list, I get all excited about like 10 different books.

Because I have nothing much of running significance to share with you right now, I've selected a few titles that I've been meaning to read for the last few weeks / months / years. In order not to overwhelm you, I've limited it to 5 books per category.

(Update: Okay, screw it, I limited to as many as I felt like, because it's my blog & my lists.)

Enjoy :)

Old Classics:

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez - A piece of magical realism that tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch founds the town of Macondo, a stand-in for Colombia.
  • To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee - A Southern Gothic novel & Bildungsroman that explores racial injustice & issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the Deep South.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert A. Heinlein - A science fiction novel that tells the story of a human who comes to Earth in early adulthood after being born on the planet Mars and raised by Martians.
  • East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - Often said to be Steinbeck's greatest work, EoE tells of the story of two families living in the Salinas Valley in the early 20th century.
  • Watership Down, by Richard Adams - A classic heroic fantasy novel recounting the odyssey of a group of anthropomorphised rabbits as they attempt to escape the destruction of their warren to seek a place in which to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

    New Classics:
  • The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse - A futuristic bildungsroman in which a young boy attempts to master the infinitely complex Glass Bead Game, an abstract synthesis of all arts and sciences.
  • Bullet Park, by John Cheever - A book dealing with the failure of the American Dream focusing on the earnest yet pensive Eliot Nailles, his troubled son Tony, and their predestined fate with the psychotic man who moves to Bullet Park to sacrifice one of them.
  • Gravity’s Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon - A post-modern novel set primarily in Europe at the end of World War II that centers on the design, production and dispatch of V-2 rockets by the German military, and, in particular, the quest to uncover the secret of a mysterious device to be installed in a rocket with the serial number "00000."
  • We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin - A classic of dystopian science fiction set in 30th century One State, a society where all live for the collective good and individual freedom does not exist. In it, state mathematician D-503 experiences to his shock the most disruptive emotion imaginable: love for another human being.
  • Kallocain, by Karin Boye - A classic Swedish novel envisioning a future of drab terror. Seen through the eyes of idealistic scientist Leo Kall, Kallocain’s depiction of a totalitarian world state is a montage of what the author saw & sensed in 1930s Russia & Germany.

    New(ish) Fiction:
  • Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer - A nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player, and pacifist searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks.
  • Palimpsest, by Catherynne M. Valente - The story of four travelers in the mythical city of Palimpsest, accessible only during the sleep that follows sex, as they each search for something they've lost.
  • City of Glass, by Paul Auster - A mystery writer assumes a detective's identity and embarks on a bizzare case: he must protect a man from his criminally insane father. As he follows the elusive criminal, he embarks on a mission that takes him to the depths of his own soul.
  • The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, by Neal Stephenson - Set in twenty-first century Shanghai, TDA is the story of what happens when a state-of-the-art interactive device falls in the hands of a street urchin named Nell.
  • Search: A Novel of Forbidden History, by Judith Reeves-Stevens - A geneticist discovers ancient, nonhuman DNA in his genetic makeup that is apparently going to kill him. While he tries to locate its geographic origin in order to save his life, a powerful group of others tries to stop him.
  • Lady Oracle, by Margaret Atwood - The bored wife of a myopic ban-the-bomber takes off overnight as Canada's new superpoet, pens lurid gothics on the sly, attracts a blackmailing reporter, skids cheerfully in and out of menacing plots, hair-raising traps, and passionate trysts, then lands dead and well in Terremoto, Italy.
  • IQ84, by Haruki Murakami - A young Japanese woman begins to notice puzzling discrepancies in the world around her. She realizes she has entered a parallel existence which she calls 1Q84 (Q for ‘question mark.’) Meanwhile, an aspiring writer takes on a ghostwriting project & becomes so wrapped up in it that his own life begins to come unraveled.
  • Dance, Dance, Dance, by Haruki Murakami - As he searches for a mysteriously vanished girlfriend, a man plunges into a wind tunnel of sexual violence and metaphysical dread in which he collides with call girls, plays chaperone to a teen-age psychic, and receives cryptic instructions from a shabby but oracular Sheep Man.
  • Declare, by Tim Powers - A young double agent infiltrating the Soviet spy network in Nazi-occupied Paris finds himself caught up in a secret, even more ruthless war. Two decades later, he is forced to confront again the nightmare that has haunted his adult life: a lethal unfinished operation code-named Declare.
  • The Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis - A history student in 2048 travels back in time to study the 14th century. A crisis strangely linking past and future strands her there as her fellows try desperately to rescue her. In a time of superstition and fear, she finds she has become an unlikely angel of hope during one of history's darkest hours.
  • Gun, With Occasional Music, by Jonathan Lethem - A private detective in near-future Oakland investigates the wife of an affluent doctor. When the doctor turns up dead, he finds himself caught in a crossfire between the Inquisitor's Office and a group of back-room gangsters. A mix of sci-fi, noir, mystery, & humor.
  • Storm Front, by Jim Butcher - A wizard-turned-PI with a wicked sense of humor in need of business consults with Chicago PD on a grisly double murder committed with black magic & soon finds himself the the murderer's new target.

  • The Way We Never Were: American Families & the Nostalgia Trap, by Stephanie Coontz - Examines two centuries of American family life and shatters a series of myths and half-truths that burden modern families with regard to parenting, privacy, love, sexual behavior, gender roles, feminism, & race relations.
  • The Predictioneer’s Game: Using the Logic of Brazen Self-Interest to See & Shape the Future, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita - BdM uses game theory and its insights into human behavior to predict and even engineer political, financial, and personal events. His forecasts, which have been employed by everyone from the CIA to major business firms, have an amazing 90 percent accuracy rate.
  • How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like, by Paul Bloom - Bloom investigates pleasures noble and steamy, lofty and mundane, to reveal that our enjoyment of a given thing is determined not by what we can see and touch but by our beliefs about that thing’s history, origin, and deeper nature.
  • The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, & the Meaning of Life, by Jesse Bering - Bering unveils the psychological underpinnings of our search for a predestined life purpose, our desire to read divine messages into random occurrences, our visions of the afterlife, and our curiosity about how moral & immoral behavior is rewarded or punished in this life.
  • One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, by Rebecca Mead - Masterfully mixing investigative journalism and social commentary to explore the workings of the wedding industrial complex in America, Mead skillfully reveals that for better or worse, the way we marry is who we are.
  • At Home: A Short History of Private Life, by Bill Bryson - With wit, charm, & knowledge, Bryson takes us on a tour through his own house, using each room as a jumping off point into the vast history of the domestic artifacts we take for granted & ultimately demonstrating that whatever happens in the world eventually ends up in our home.

    If you are the bookish type & like to share & receive recommendations, you can become my friend on GoodReads. I just became GoodReads friends with Leah from Chasing Atalanta; our book tastes seem to overlap reasonably well, so it's been cool to see what she's been reading / planning to read.

    Happy Holidays, everyone! :)
  • 1 comment:

    1. awesome!! we have to talk books next weekend. :)