Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Million Years in a Day: A Curious History of Everyday Life from the Stone Age to the Phone Age, by Greg Jenner. Thomas Dunne Books, 2015

What were toilets like during the time of Imperial Rome? What kind of underwear was worn during the Tudor era? How did people keep in touch before the telephone was invented- before the post office, even? When did the fork develop, or the mattress? What about dentistry? This book can tell you all these things and more, in a witty, casual, conversational way. The author is both historical consultant and comedy writer, and he’s combined both skills well in this book.

This book does not tell us about kings or generals. It’s not about invasions or wars. It’s about daily life, the things that affected every single person, no matter how rich or poor. Like the toddler’s book says, everybody poops. Everybody also wears some kind of clothing and eats. This is the history of both royalty and the common person. And it’s a really fun book. They should give this book to pre-teens to get them sucked into how interesting history is. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

This in no way affected my review.  

Monday, August 15, 2016

100 Vegetables and Where They Came From, by William Woys Weaver. Algonquin Books, 2000

The title pretty much says it all; the book tells us about 100 vegetables, what they taste like, where they are from, and how they are prepared. What the title doesn’t tell us is that these vegetables are special; they are some of the tastiest plants on the planet. Consider golden corn salad from Italy, whose large leaves make a salad beautiful; or the Petaluma Gold Rush bean, which when used dried keeps a marvelous meaty taste and texture. The Re Umberto tomato is a paste tomato that is incredibly productive and has an unmatched flavor. Some plants are included mainly because they are different and pretty, but most are included because of flavor. Being both gardener and foodie, I found myself looking up seed sources and bookmarking them numerous times while reading.

The prose is chatty and an easy, fast read. Nice line drawings illustrate the veggies. My only problem with the book is that an awful lot of these wonderful plants won’t grow in my short season area! 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click on it and buy something- anything- Amazon will give me a few cents. 

This in no way influenced my review.  

A Green and Ancient Light, by Frederic S. Durbin. Saga Press, 2016

In an alternate Italy in World War 2, a nine year old boy has been sent to spend the summer with his grandmother in her rural home, safely away from the fighting and bombings. His father is in the army, and his mother is recovering from giving birth. He misses his family and friends, and is somewhat bored by country life. Then one day an enemy plane comes screaming over the village and crashes into the bay. This event turns everything upside down.

That night, a quiet knock comes on the grandmother’s back door. It’s an old friend of hers, needing help. The boy gets multiple shocks that night; the enemy pilot is alive, his grandmother is capable of sewing up people, the old friend is a faun, and there is an overgrown garden of stone monsters in the woods where the other villagers never go.

As the days go by with the pilot healing, the boy explores both the stone monsters and his grandmother’s past. It’s a magical time for him, but reality intrudes constantly; a major arrives with a unit of men, bent of locating the missing enemy pilot. They make the boy’s explorations difficult to say the least. Between keeping the pilot hidden and trying to figure out what the inscriptions of the stone monsters mean, he and his grandmother have their hands full. And it will turn out that both those endeavors have a common answer.

The prose is so stunningly beautiful that it took my breath away. I’d be willing to say that this book will be a new classic; it’s up there with Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, J.M. Barrie, and Charles de Lint. The story unfolds slowly but steadily. It’s as much an adventure of the mind as of the body. Told by the narrator in adulthood but with the eyes of a nine year old, it’s an enchanted tale, suitable for kids to adults. 

The above is an affiliate link. If you click through and buy something- anything- from Amazon, they will give me a few cents. 

This in no way influenced my review.