Thursday, February 4, 2010

Resolution: Read more books

One of my recurring New Year's resolutions is to read more books ~ mind you, not just any books. I enjoy reading food and travel memoirs, such as Calvin Trillin's Travels With Alice and Alice, Let's Eat, and I appreciate reading books about current, topical issues such as food wisdom, like In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma, both expertly written by Michael Pollan. Also, I'm trying really hard to finally read some of Nick Hornby's delightful books, like Fever Pitch.

I'm like many in today's reading climate ~ my reading habits bend toward staying current with newspapers (The San Francisco Chronicle and The New York Times) as well as periodicals like The New Yorker, Oxford American, Paste and Monocle. Also, I make time for perusing some of my favorite blogs written by my fellow Facebook friends ~ Michelle Hargrave, Amy Christine Stiner, Jessie Thompson Eustice, John Boggs and Steve Scott. Added up, there's just not enough quality time to devote to reading books.

Fortunately, 2010 is still relatively young ~ and I've always regarded reading as an admirable hobby.

On Tuesday night, while nearing the completion of a 20-minute peddle on a stationary bike at my fitness center ~ a place I seem to do some of my best reading ~ I felt a sense of gratification after I finished reading my first book of the year, The Anglo Files: A Field Guide to the British by Sarah Lyall, a London-based correspondent for The New York Times. Sure, it only took me 33 days into a new year ~ and it's a softcover book that's been on my nightstand since I bought it during a Labor Day weekend visit with friends in Seattle. OK, so I'm not a speed reader.

See, I'm just like many who don't need much motivation to start reading a book that's just been purchased ~ and in the interest of full disclosure, I prefer supporting independent booksellers, like Powell's City of Books in Portland, Ore. and Seattle's The Elliott Bay Book Company, where I bought The Anglo Files, instead of big chain retailers like Barnes & Noble or Borders.

I just have a bad habit of not finishing books that I've started. However, each time I picked up The Anglo Files I really enjoyed it ~ it's part anthropological field study, part memoir about an American reporter from New York (Lyall) who becomes transplanted in the U.K., meets and falls in love with a Brit who becomes her husband. Lyall writes about old, odd and peculiar British customs and attitudes in a very humourous tone.

For instance, she writes about the weather: "Even though Britons pretend otherwise, the weather has a huge influence on the national mood. Because so many days start bright and quickly turn gloomy, early-morning enthusiasm turns to late-morning glumness ... and writers from Shakespeare to Daphne du Maurier have written obsessively about the weather as instigator and mirror of their characters' moods. ...

"I think one of the reasons Britons lack Americans' perky enthusiasm is lack of light. The moodiness makes for lovely landscape paintings, but the sun's failure to rise all the way in the sky brings on a natural melancholy. At its best the sun is large and cold, like the dying sun of an old dying planet in a science fiction story. The sky might be blue, but it is always pale blue. In the winter, darkness follows lunch."

Often, The Anglo Files was my reading companion at my fitness center and I read it occasionally during BART commutes between Oakland and San Francisco. Sometimes, I tried to read a page or two at bedtime while laying in bed ~ although that's never a guarantee for reading a lot of pages before inevitably dozing off to sleep. Finally, the read pages added up to read chapters and, finally, a finished book ~ and it was an enjoyable read. Makes me yearn for getting back to London for another visit ~ but that's another story.

So, with one book down and who knows how many more to be read, what's next up on my 2010 reading list? Well, I think it's time for another foodie memoir that also involves travel, so I'm going to start Far Flung and Well Fed: The Food Writing of R.W. Apple Jr. A longtime reporter and correspondent for The New York Times, Apple made an art form out of writing about the culinary delights of regional cuisine throughout the U.S. I know it'll be a pleasurable read ~ and one I hope to savor from start to finish.

I'll keep you posted.

1 comment:

  1. Michael Pollan is brilliant! I've seen him more in the media as of late exposing the food industry. Am anxious to start reading his books as well. Let me know how you like "Far Flung" and great update Mike!