My Bookshelf – Spring 2016

Makers by Cory Doctorow
I’m becoming a bit of a Doctorow fan girl as you can see since there are two of his books in this list. This was an interesting though lengthy novel about two guys who make stuff (the “makers”) starting a bit of a work revolution with 3-D printers and other technology and the journalist who documents this. It’s not all ‘let’s take over the world!’ rather it charts the story over the decades and what happens when your dreams go sour. Worth a read purely for the ever interesting ideas that Doctorow comes up with.

Information Shouldn’t be Free by Cory Doctorow
Highly recommend this short book on copyright, intellectual property and digital technology aimed at your average Joe in the creative industries. Doctorow takes a dull, complex topic and explains it clearly with fascinating insights and examples. His key aim is working out how indies and the majors can successfully co-exist. Thankfully it’s not a work of imagination; concrete ideas are in abundance. If you want to make a living from your art, read this book.

The Poe Shadow by Matthew Pearl
I picked this up because I’d read the excellent crime novel, The Dante Club by the same author. Sadly it didn’t live up to my expectations. The premise is a fan and contemporary of Edgar Allan Poe investigates his untimely death with the help of the real life inspiration for a Poe detective character. The first half of the novel is mainly spent sitting around in libraries reading newspapers (I’m only exaggerating slightly). It does pick up at the end, but the characters are not very well sketched and the first-person, plummy Victorian voice starts to grate.

A Conspiracy of Violence by Susanna Gregory
The tagline hooked me in on this one (darn those marketers!): ‘Decadence and deceit in Restoration London.’ My musicology dissertation was on this period, and I’m a sucker for any related material. Everyone is a bit confused about whether this is the first in the Thomas Chaloner series or not. Nonetheless it still made sense. Read on holiday, the gripping plot, interesting characters and spot on historicity kept the pages turning.

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
Tartt, an award winning author, comes recommended by many. She’s also a Mississippi native and many of her novels are set in the South so that was of interest to me. The Little Friend chronicles the fall out from the unsolved killing of a young boy in rural Mississippi. To her credit, Tartt brilliantly paints the Southern small town and her characters are vivid…but it’s all very dark. She uses themes of unintended consequences, chaos/order and characters’ fruitless pursuit of meaning, justification and redemption. At over 500 pages it’s long too (she publishes about a book a decade so they tend to be door stoppers). So by all means read her work but don’t expect a sunny day out.

The Martian by Andy Weir
I absolutely loved this book! I am a bit of space geek but this was so much fun and much better than the movie. Set during a future manned Mars mission where one astronaut gets stranded and has to figure out how to survive using his wits, mechanical engineer/botantist skills and a lot of duct tape. Very funny and apparently fairly accurate on the space science, highly recommend this one.

No Way Down: Life and Death on K2 by Graham Bowley
This was some emergency reading material picked up on our recent trip to the States and it was definitely good travel reading. Bowley, a NY Times journalist, chronicles (using extensive research) the disastrous August 2008 climbing season when 11 climbers died on K2 the second highest mountain on Earth.

The Lent Factor by Graham James
The premise of this book is a series 40 pen portraits of people who had influenced the author. It was interesting but I found the whole concept a bit pompous (writing about 40 people with you at the center…), especially when he writes about people I’d never heard of as if only hermits did not know these names.

Deep South travelogue – Food

Part two of my travelogue of our recent visit back to the States. For the first post on Southern culture click here. The Southern United States is renowned for its cuisine, and oh my goodness, we ate so much good food I don’t know where to start. I’ll just recap geographically.

IMG_20160609_103113151

Southern cookbook section at Lemuria Books (also worth a visit) in Jackson. Yes, there were about 12 shelves of cookbooks.

  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Tío Javi’s (the rebranded Ninfa’s) serves some of the best Mexican food you can get this side of, well, Mexico. Our family has been eating there for decades. Now that we’re all Baton Rouge exiles, we have to make special pilgrimages for the tortillas and the fajita platters and the chips and salsa and queso dip…

CC’s Coffee House is the coffee shop outlet of storied Louisiana coffee company, Community Coffee (disclaimer- my dad used to work there so I’m a bit biased). Besides great coffee and pastries, a lot of the shops incorporate traditional Louisiana decor. When I was driving 1 hour each way for violin lessons in Baton Rouge, I used to stop at CC’s on the way home for a pick-me-up coffee.

  • Jackson, Mississippi

Two Sisters serves quintessential Southern home cooking, the “meat and three” (meat puts three sides). Buffet style, there was fried chicken, collard greens, stewed sweet potatoes, fried okra, biscuits, bread pudding with rum sauce, iced tea… plus a salad bar! A bunch of famous people have eaten there and the walls are covered with autographed photos. Funnily enough the only one I immediately remember was John McCain!

We were recommended Pig and Pint in the hip Fondren district and it was AMAZING. A barbecue and beer joint in a refurbished gas station, you can’t get much more American than that. We got barbecue nachos and ribs and I left thinking, “why is the first time I’ve  eaten barbecue nachos 2016?” The staff were really friendly too and the place was filled with all the trophies they’ve won for their barbecue (yes there are barbecue competitions).

Mexikale, one word, empanadas (Mexican version of Cornish pasties). Go there and eat them.

We went to Sugar’s Place in downtown Jackson for breakfast. Cheap and tasty and the grits were bringing back all my childhood memories.

Cups in Fondren looks great from a refurbishment but the coffee (student size, with a shot of hazelnut) tasted exactly the same as when I first ordered it in freshmen year. And it was still full of students and people enjoying the atmosphere and the coffee.