Daisy Jones & The Six

Daisy Jones and the Six coverDaisy Jones & The Six: A Novel
Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ballantine Books (March 5, 2019), 368 pages
Amazon hardcover $15.99, Kindle edition $11.99

I actually read this book in hardcover, not as a Kindle e-book. Terry and I both read the review in the New York Times Book Review and thought it would be a fun read. She picked up the hardcover at Barnes & Noble and I read it when she was done. We were right. It was a fun read.

The book is presented as an oral history of a seventies rock band, with each member of the band presenting his or her perspective of events. The band’s supposed songs are even printed at the end of the book. There might be a tendency to view this as a fictionalized history of Fleetwood Mac, although there are probably more differences than similarities to that band’s history. Daisy Jones herself is something of a Stevie Nicks, although even here there are as many differences as similarities.

The book is a fast, enjoyable, and engaging read. There is something of a surprise near the end of the novel when we learn who the supposed interviewer and author is. And at the book’s conclusion I had tears in my eyes. I don’t cry at the end of novels. I did this time.

If you are a fan of seventies pop music you will find Daisy Jones & The Six well worth your time.


Save Me the Plums

Save Me the Plums coverSave Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir
Ruth Reichl
narrated by the author
Random House Audio, 2019
$19.60 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I read My Kitchen Year, Ruth Reichl’s memoir cum cookbook, when it came out in 2015, so I was keen on reading, well, listening to, her latest book. My Kitchen Year is Reichl’s story about her life in the year after Gourmet magazine, of which she was editor-in-chief, was shut down, and in it she included a number of recipes that helped her make it through that year. Save Me the Plums is her narrative about her decade at Gourmet.

This is one of those audiobooks that is made far better by being read by the author. Reichl describes being lured to the Condé Nast publication from her job as food critic for The New York Times. She describes how she helped revitalize the magazine, which had become staid and stale. She talks about the lavish expense accounts and other perquisites that came with being part of Condé Nast. She talks about the politics of publishing and the idiosyncrasies of Condé Nast owner S.I. Newhouse. She describes the belt-tightening that came with the Great Recession and Newhouse’s decision, sudden and unexpected, to shut down the magazine. Throughout it all Reichl offers a variety of recipes.

This book will appeal to a variety of audiences: foodies, lovers of food writing, and those with an interest in the magazine publishing business. Enjoyable, engaging listening.


Horizon

Horizon coverHorizon
Barry Lopez
Knopf (March 19, 2019), 592 pages
Kindle edition $14.99, Amazon hardcover $18.00

One would think that if one were to select a book to read from an award-winning author whom one had not read before, one would start with one of their classic books. In the case of Barry Lopez that might be Arctic Dreams or Of Wolves and Men. Me, I started with his most recent book, Horizon.

Not a Barry Lopez classic, but highly readable and enjoyable. Lopez describes his visits to the Oregon Coast, the Galapagos Islands, Africa, Australia, and the Antarctic. He describes not only his own travels, but delves into history as well. He writes about Captain Cook, Charles Darwin, the Leakey family, and the earliest Antarctic explorers. The writing is entertaining and engaging and it was delightful to read about Lopez’s explorer spirit. The history was fascinating, except for some of the more unpleasant bits which Lopez describes unblinkingly.

For travel writing and for history this is good reading.


Almost Everything

Notes on Hope coverAlmost Everything: Notes on Hope
Anne Lamott
narrated by the author
Penguin Audio, 2018
$12.25 for Audible members, more for non-members
purchased with an Audible credit

I have not read an Anne Lamott book for several years. When I decided to add an Audible subscription to my Amazon account, however, this is the first book I purchased with one of my credits. I was past due for an Anne Lamott fix.

The book did not disappoint. I was very familiar with Anne’s voice from her many appearances on the late, lamented West Coast Live, a highly intelligent public radio program that Terry and I faithfully listened to each week. It only made sense that she narrate her own book; another voice would not have sounded right.

Anne writes about family, friends, recovery, and writing. She writes about people whose lives were cut short by disease. But she also talks about community, about faith, about grace, and, naturally, about hope. She says people who engender hate want exactly that: for us to hate them, and we should thwart them by not doing so. That makes me seriously reconsider my own feelings about the current occupant of the White House.

She writes about grace. “We can’t logically get from where we were to where we are now. I think that is what they mean by grace.” She calls grace “spiritual WD-40.”

There is not a lot new here. Anne Lamott is Anne Lamott, although I did learn for the first time about her son’s struggle with addiction and recovery. If you are an Anne Lamott fan, however, you will find yourself in familiar and comfortable territory with this book.


This is Audible

If you have ever purchased an audiobook from Audible you know that every book starts with a familiar voice saying, “This is audible.” (Rather like the “You’ve got mail” from the heyday of AOL. Someone whose voice became familiar to millions and who probably got paid very little for recording the phrase.) That Audible voice was present in the early days of the company and it is still very much present today in the Amazon-owned era.

AudibleI wrote a couple of weeks ago about my audiobook dilemma. I liked the fact that I could download audiobooks from the library at no cost, but I disliked the fact that most new titles were unavailable, being already checked out by others, and that I was under time pressure to finish the book. I said that I didn’t have a problem in principle with the Audible monthly fee, but I didn’t want to put yet another monthly subscription on my credit card.

Here’s was I did. I was already aware that I was in overwhelm mode with my streaming video options, so I decided that was a good place to cut back, allowing me in good conscience to take on the Audible subscription.

My first impression: I am delighted. When I was an Audible subscriber many years ago the selection was somewhat limited. I had a credit that I had to use each month or lose (they later began to allow credit rollovers), but there wasn’t necessarily a book available that month which I wanted. These days almost every new book that comes out has an audio version, as well as print and ebook editions. Amazon makes it easy because when you search for a book the entry displays all the various formats that are available. I am not by any means going to give up reading print books in Kindle format, but many books do lend themselves to the audio format. While I will continue to read my Kindle books in the evening, I have audiobooks which I can listen to while walking, driving, doing yard work, or simply doing daily mundane tasks. It’s nice to be able to listen to an audiobook while emptying the dishwasher.

There’s another benefit that having an Audible subscription provides. I get my one credit each month, but if I come to the end of a book before I come to the end of the month the cost of that second audiobook is considerably less for Audible members than it is for non-members.

I think the value of the subscription is going to be well worth the cost.


The Origins of Creativity

Origins of Creativity coverThe Origins of Creativity
Edward O. Wilson
narrated by Jonathan Hogan
Recorded Books, 2017
Audiobook $17.95, Kindle edition $8.98
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

This was enjoyable listening. Edward O. Wilson is a distinguished Harvard scientist who first made his name in the field of entomology (the study of insects – as opposed to etymology, the study of word origins). In particular, he is one of the foremost experts in the world on ants.

This book goes far beyond the ant world, however. His thesis is that we can do a lot to salvage culture and society by the coming together of science and the humanities. In this discussion, he describes storytelling in hunter-gatherer societies, the social conventions of insects, the evolution of the genus homo, and archetypes in movies. Wilson also discusses religion, though not always in a favorable light. At the same time, he has some positive things to say about religion and even admits to a couple of moving religious experiences in his own life.

The narration by Jonathan Hogan is excellent. His inflection, cadence, and pace make this a very enjoyable book to listen to. I did at times think that maybe I should be reading the print version; there were times when I wanted to flip back a few pages, something that is easier to do in print than with audio.

Overall, however, this was a delightful and educational listening experience.


Love, Loss, and What We Ate

Love, Loss, and What We Ate coverLove, Loss, and What We Ate: A Memoir
Padma Lakshmi
narrated by the author
HarperAudio, 2016
Audiobook $28.95, Kindle edition $9.99
audiobook borrowed from the Santa Clara County Library System

I have been getting my audiobooks from the Santa Clara County Library System. As a result I find myself borrowing books that I might otherwise not listen to as the newer, popular books are usually checked out. That was definitely the case with Love, Loss, and What We Ate.

I wasn’t familiar with Padma Lakshmi before listening to her memoir. I am a foodie, as you well know, but if you have been reading this blog for a while you know that I also hate competition cooking shows. Lakshmi is best known as a judge on Top Chef, which airs on the Bravo network. It turns out, however, that she has done a lot more than that.

Lakshmi’s mother is an immigrant from India who put herself through nursing school and then devoted herself to the profession. Padma found herself somewhat at loose ends after college and more or less stumbled into a career in modeling. That led to some acting gigs which led to an anchor role on the Italian equivalent of the Today show. Lakshmi writes with honesty about many aspects of her life, including her short-lived and tempestuous marriage to author Salmon Rushdie and a long-term relationship with one of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout, many decades her senior.

She also writes about her own personal health. She describes her battle with endometriosis in excruciating detail which made me, as a male, uncomfortable. But I am sure that part of her motivation in writing the book was to make her own struggles public as a means of raising awareness and helping other women with the same disease, which seems to be frequently misdiagnosed. In fact, she helped found the Endometriosis Foundation of America. And in the larger picture, that was a small, even if somewhat lengthy, part of the book.

I listened to an NPR piece on audiobook production a number of years ago. The segment included David Sedaris, who records the audio versions of his own books, explaining how one should not try to take on the voices of others when reading dialog, but rather continue on in one’s own voice. As much as it was a delight to hear Lakshmi tell her own story, I wish she had followed David’s advice. The Indian accent she used for her female relatives sounded affected at best. Her attempt at taking on the accent of her Turkish gynecologist sounded, well, just strange.

Nonetheless, the book was for the most part enjoyable. While I grew weary hearing at times of Lakshmi’s jet setting ways, she still has led an interesting life that lends itself to pleasant listening.