Saturday, January 03, 2009

favorite reads of 2008

a new year, a new box of beautiful pencils. since i decided to draw my purchases in 2009, ala kate of obsessive consumption, i felt i needed good tools with which to do it, so i got these lovely pastel pencils. they are beautiful, vibrant colors, but have a tendency to smear, so i may go back to my favorite stædtler triplus fineliners. but in the meantime, i am enjoying just looking at them in their pristine loveliness and they were pretty cool for drawing the embroidery thread skeins, so they do have their purpose.

i got a bit of alone time today. i warmed up the atelier and have had a couple of hours to myself out here (ya gotta love WiFi), listening to alanis, painting a bookshelf, looking through books, checking out my latest dozens kit, taking pictures of my pretty pencils. painting is so therapeutic, somehow in the methodic repetition of the strokes, my mind clears and find that i'm feeling peaceful and content again.

i'd also like to think that it's because we really got the colors right out here...the peaceful, yet creatively stimulating, warm teals, the old sideboard, being surrounded by all of my best creative supplies. but maybe it's also because i did get the tree taken down and that's not weighing on my mind anymore. the kids cleaned the bathroom sinks and swept, so that's not bugging me anymore either. whatever it is, i'm feeling much better.

* * *

now that i'm feeling in less of a deep blue funk, i think my head is clear enough to make the list of the best books i read in 2008. early in the year, i tried to keep a list of all the books i'd read. i did an installment of it in february and one in april and then, sadly, i didn't keep up the list. i did, however, keep reading. and reading. and reading. and i'm not sure i could accurately reconstruct because a lot of books were shelved in this house since april i might not remember all of those i read.

i discovered several new authors in 2008--haruki murakami and paul theroux and norwegian author eric fosnes hansen. i realize murakami and theroux aren't really "new" authors, but they were new to me and i went a bit nuts reading them, especially murakami. i think i only have two of his books left that i haven't read. they're on my shelf, being saved for a special occasion because i'm a little afraid of being in a situation where there's no new murakami left for me to read.

but here we go, my favorites reads of all those books i read in 2008 (not in any particular order other than the order in which they came to mind):

  1. nigella lawson, nigella christmas. my new speciality--the julelog cake--came from this one, along with much of the other food i made in this house from thanksgiving through new year's eve. it's beautifully photographed, the recipes are easy, there are lots of pomegranates, and nigella writes like a dream. i want to lick her words off the actual page.
  2. nigel slater, real food. most of the food i made in the first half of 2008 came from this cookbook. the coq au riesling sustained us through our kitchenless summer, because it worked a treat slow-cooked all day over the old rusty wood-burning stove in the yard.
  3. jamie oliver, ministry of food. on those days when you're not inspired to cook anything, you can open this book and find something fast, easy, healthy and wonderful. jamie oliver has done marvelous things to make people all over the world into cooks, even when they thought they weren't. 
  4. paul theroux, ghost train to the eastern star. this was his update of the trip he took 30 years before and which launched his career as a travel writer with his great railway bazaar. what won me over is that he may dislike singapore even more than i do, but he wrote so eloquently about it. but most marvelous of all is his mode of traveling for the sake of the journey and the experience. i hope i will be a better traveler on my next trip now that i've read him. and the best moment of the book is when he's in tokyo, hanging out with murakami!
  5. paul theroux, dark star safari. i'm reading this right now and although i'm not finished, i'm putting it on the list (i began it in 2008). i am in love with africa thanks to this book. it makes me want to go back to egypt with a new attitude and i simply cannot wait to see what he says about cape town, which is one of my favorite places in the world.  i just ordered a couple more paul theroux travel books on amazon because i can't stand the thought of being without when i'm done with this one.
  6. erik fosnes hansen, tales of protection. i discovered this norwegian author in an oslo bookstore on one of my frequent trips to oslo in 2008. especially the first tale in this book of three interwoven stories is haunting and will make you look at bees in an entirely new light. the underlying theme explores coincidences and whether there really are any. 
  7. haruki murakami, wind-up bird chronicle. this is the murakami that started it all for me. i hadn't been so drawn in by an author since dostoevsky. and it left me in the same fractured mental state, seeing japanese everywhere and generally having murakami moments. the only thing i didn't do was manage to spend time down a well, but i probably would have had i come across one.
  8. haruki murakami, hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world. this was my other favorite of the murakami i read this year, although this isn't to say that i didn't like norwegian wood, kafka on the shore, after dark and all the rest. there's just something about these guys who live in overlapping realities that i find so appealing. reading him puts me a heightened state of mind that is what i imagine cocaine is like. that's it, murakami is like cocaine to me. 
  9. elizabeth gilbert, eat, pray, love. i know, it's one of those women's magazine must-read books, but this book was just what i needed at the beginning of 2008. to read of another woman's journey back to happiness after my bad break-up with my job, was just what i needed. and gilbert is funny and smart, if a little navel-gazing, but what do you expect in such a book?
  10. robert scoble and shel isreal, naked conversations. the book is a couple of years old and that's a lifetime in the days of web 2.0, but it holds up well and offers tons of great ideas and advice for blogging in a business context. it made me realize that what i'd really love to do is find a way to blog for a living. i'm still pondering how to go about that one.
there are many other books i read and i might do a second installment of this list sometime later this week. i'd love to know the great books you read in 2008.


Lynne said...

I am soon to be the proud owner of a Kindle (when my mom gets back from her visit to my brother in the US) and was excited to see your list.
I've never read Murakami so that's top of my list of new authors to experience this year.

julochka said...

you will love murakami. he's marvelous.

Dutchbaby said...

What a lovely post; I don't know where to start. Your drawings of the DMC skeins are so convincing that I had to double click the photo to see it enlarged. Yup, they are definitely drawn. I think it's how you "posed" the skeins that make them so convincing.

Now for the books, I went through a Paul Theroux phase a bunch of years ago. He can be very entertaining and witty, but sometimes I tire of his cynicism.

I have not read Murakami;I will add to my list. Have you read "Samurai's Garden" by Gail Tsukiyama? Fantastic read!