Nonfiction: My bedtime books these days are about baking, notably Rose Levy Berenbaum's Bread Bible and Peter Hamelman's epic Bread (second edition) both of which I recommend unreservedly. I'm finding Peter Reinhart's books (The Bread Baker's Apprentice, Whole Grain Breads) much too focused on how wonderful and famous he is and not sufficiently focused on the dough. The Hamelman book is telling me exactly what I need to know -- not just recipes, but how the underlying physical and chemical processes determine bread quality. Holiday gift from the estimable wild_irises, who also gave me Cheryl Strayed's wise, heartbreaking collection of advice columns, Tiny Beautiful Things.
Also oursin mentioned Alex Comfort's 1967 book, The Anxiety Makers, about the ways in which the medical profession has encouraged weird fears (sexual, fecal) so I ordered it from interlibrary loan. Delightfully snarky and also a bit scary, since we're going through another wave of everything-is-poisonous food anxieties.
Also Ian Pickford's book, Antique Silver; I do not have the money or desire to collect silver but I wanted to understand the development of flatware for the nineteenth-century novel I'm working on. (Obsessive? Me?) Seriously, the dinner table changed enormously during that remarkable century. Mostly it had to acquire much stronger weight-bearing members, because the simple flatware of 1812 multiplied into a monstrous array of luncheon forks, dinner forks, salad forks, lemon forks, oyster forks, pickle forks, fruit knives, fish knives, salad knives, meat knives, round-bowled spoons for clear soups, oval-bowled spoons for cream soups, tiny spoons for demitasse, medium spoons for tea, large spoons for dessert, small knives for dessert, and pierced spoons for berries and absinthe. Also multiple special serving tools for various types of food and carving forks with a kickstand. No, really.
• What did you recently finish reading?
Nonfiction: Cynthia B. Herrup, A house in gross disorder, which casts a completely different light on the infamous prosecution of the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven for rape and sodomy. Highly recommended.
Stephen Trombley, The execution protocol, a somewhat outdated yet vividly horrifying look at the execution industry in the US.
Jennifer Reese's delightful Make the bread, buy the butter. She spent several years testing which things are better homemade (home-grown), which can better be bought at a supermarket. Lots of recipes and some rueful anecdotes. The difference between her and Reinhart has a great deal to do with self-deprecation versus self-aggrandizement.
The full run of the Aubrey/Maturin novels -- second read for them all. Delightful but occasionally too painful to read.
The earliest and latest of P.D. James, which show both her great talent and her serious flaws. "Cover Her Face" is viciously classist. It reads like a defense for the killer. Also, I find it creepy that Adam Dalgleish picks up women at crime scenes. Isn't that unprofessional? Also, given that he was 40ish in 1963, when A Mind to Murder was published, he probably shouldn't be all excited about fathering another child 45 years later. Anyway, he dislikes children. OTOH, it was quite amusing to read Death Comes to Pemberly, her Pride and Prejudice fanfic, which reads like the hero is Adam Darcy or Fitzwilliam Dalgleish but makes a number of errors in Regency culture, Jane Austen lore, and basic storybuilding.
This sounds like I dislike P. D. James. I don't. I just find the great novels of her middle period (Shroud for a Nightingale, Death of an Expert Witness, and so on) far superior to her earliest and most recent work.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
The Compleat Boucher (SF and horror stories) and a compendium of four of his mystery novels. He's Ghost of Honor at FOGcon this year. Also, I adore his work. Looking forward to rereading some lovely old friends and discovering stories I've never read before.
What are you reading?
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