blaise's book feast

Un amuse bouche de la litterature

Month: December, 2013

Other Ephemera From 2012

Okay, so I was on a bit of a running kick in the beginning of January 2012, trying to get inspired to run long distances.  These first three books hit the spot, each in their own unique way.  If running isn’t your thing, there are also a few novels below that are worth a glance.

Born to Run by Chris McDougall.  Thought-provoking read about running with the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico and why we should be running on our toes, like how everybody did before Nike invented the running shoe in the 1970s.  The Tarahumara ran injury-free for hundreds of miles in punishing conditions, and seem to be immune to the common runners’ ailment’s of plantar fasciitis, shin splints, knee pain, hip pain, etc. Makes me wonder about all the flashy shoe runners I see with injury after injury in my medical practice.

Eat and Run by Scott Jurek.   We’ll excuse the fact that Scott Jurek is some sort of Midwestern wunderkind who started cross country skiing as an infant; but this guy not only runs ultramarathons; he eats only VEGAN FOOD.  He moved to Seattle several years ago and developed his running style on some of my favorite running trails (Cougar Mountain, Mt. Si), and became exceptionally successful in the ultra scene.  He’s also a physical therapist, and an excellent human being, who cheers each finisher to the finish line, even if they are several hours behind him and his body is pretzeled in pain from running 100+ miles.  Scott provides great nutritional insight for any athlete that wants to consider a vegetarian or vegan diet and perform at their best.

The Extra Mile by Pam Reed.  Pam Reed was thought by her competitors to be trivial competition for the Badwater Ultramarathon.  This 135 mile slog takes place in Death Valley, with the start line at the lowest elevation in the US (and the highest temperature- generally 120+ degrees), and ends 135 miles later at the top of Mount Whitney at 13,000ft.  Well, this little stick figure of a woman managed to win the race overall in 2002 and 2003, mainly subsisting on Redbull and Ensure.  Since then, she’s raced 300 mile races and completed other insane and admirable running feats.  Refer to Pam for rabid inspiration. Refer to Scott Jurek for nutrition tips.

The Starboard Sea by Amber Dermont. A novel of adolescent ennui in the prep-school setting. Well written; navigates the treacherous waters of becoming a good person, and includes a mermaid-esque heroine.

Wise Men by Stuart Nadler. A much lauded novel about a young man struggling with the despicabilities of his successful father, interlaced with racial tensions. A bit slow at first, with an utterly unexpected ending.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. An incredible insight into the vast wealth and fast-forwarded lives that young rich Chinese and Chinese-Americans live, but always with foot firmly tethered in the Imperial Past.

White Girl Problems by Babe Walker. Sometimes you have to throw in an incendiary vacation book in there.  This one kept me entertained during the weird jet lagged sleepless nights during a recent trip to the Dominican Republic.  This is a satire of a rich young Hollywood woman, as written by a cadre of several clever fiction and magazine writers involved in the LA celebrity scene. The pages are so narcissistic that you can not possibly put the book down.  Boundary pushing is the goal of every page, and it if doesn’t burn up in your hands, then you clearly don’t get it.  Any Kardiashian-loathing, closet-US Weekly reading patron will love it.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette?

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? By Maria Semple

I tore through this wry slice of a book, centered around Bernadette, her precocious daughter Bee, and their foibles in my Seattle hometown.  Bernadette is a brilliant architect, though barren of artistic projects since being scorned from the LA architecture scene early in her career.  She and her husband, a Microsoft prodigy, move to Seattle, into a dilapidated former Girl’s School on a coveted piece of land in Seattle’s Queen Anne, with the thought that Bernadette would apply her architectural magic to it.  Instead, roots continue to grow through the floorboards and vines insinuate their way through the roof, creating a living forest for young Bee, who is the good-natured star of her local middle school.  The middle school politics are amusing, and will resonate with Seattleites.

When Bee gets a perfect report card, she cashes in on her parents’ promise for a gift of what ever she wants, and Bee chooses a family trip to Antarctica.  Somewhere in between ordering special fishing vests with pockets and astronaut-grade anti-nausea medication for the trip, Bernadette goes AWOL.  Bee and her father are left with a trail of emails from Bernadette’s virtual assistant in India, who may or may not be connected with the Russian mob, and some confusion about Bernadette’s mental state. What ensues is an exceptional adventure that ultimately brings dad and daughter closer, Bernadette a shade closer to sane, and reunites an imperfect family.  Thoroughly enjoyable, often hilarious, and imaginatively written.

*Thank you to my friend Lindee who recommended this excellent book