For a while I’ve wanted to start a blog series about what I’m reading. Well, what better day than today! I always have a few of books in progress (and many, many more on my list) and I’m forever curious about what other people have on their shelves.
Living abroad, I get my reading fix almost completely from e-books. I subscribe to the e-book service, Scribd, which is basically Netflix for books. Until just a couple of days ago, Scribd offered unlimited reading of a not completely exhaustive, but decent selection of books, as well as audiobooks for $8.99 a month. Apparently times are tough in this industry. Recently an e-book subscription competitor, Oyster, went out of business. Now Scribd has changed their membership subscription to only include three best sellers per month with unlimited reading of the “Scribd selected” (code for not so great books), and unlimited audiobooks. This is the second change the company has made to the subscription in a short amount of time. It’s a bummer. I’d switch services, but I haven’t found a better option. From what I can tell, Kindle Unlimited, a comparable service offered by Amazon, is complete trash. Please don’t let Scribd go out of business! I don’t know how I would survive.
Here’s my first round of What I’m Reading:
This memoir by Carrie Brownstein, of the IFC comedic sketch show Portlandia and band Sleater Kinney, is easily my favorite book of the last year. The book starts with her childhood and complicated family life, but focuses mostly on her experiences as a member of the Riot Grrrl band, Sleater Kinney, covering how the group formed, years on the road, dissolution and reunion. I really connected to her writing voice. It reminded me more of the voice in my own head that any book I’ve read before. I’m still working through whatever that means. Maybe it’s the mild undertone of anxiety through the book or the way she tells her personal story from such a distance. I don’t know, but I found a real comfort in the dry humor, the lack of dramatization and the way she details the mundane side of extraordinary events.
The Modern Natural Dyer: A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen, and Cotton at Home by Kristine Vejar
The Modern Natural Dyer is one of only a couple of hard copies I have in Riyadh and I’m glad I have this one. It’s the type of book you want to look at again and again. The photographs are beautifully styled to show a range of natural dyes sources, including cochineal, madder, onion skins and marigold. Most of these things I doubt I’ll find in Saudi Arabia, but it is inspirational all the same. The book also has a ton of simple, yet sophisticated dye projects, like the silk “Firecracker Slip” dyed with cochineal, to apply what you’ve learned.
Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What you Should and Shouldn’t Cook from Scratch—Over 120 Recipes for the Best Homemade Foods by Jennifer Reese
This book is a fun read and so very, very useful. The author, Jennifer Reese is funny and straightforward. She’s ambitious without being pretentious. She turns what could be a simple recipe book into an autobiographical food journey. Reese experimented, making over a hundred food items from scratch, including yogurt, hot dogs and even Turkish Delight candy, to determine what things are worth the time, money and effort. I won’t spoil any of the results for you. Waiting for the verdict on each food is half the fun.
Bien Cuit is the first cookbook from the well-known Brooklyn bakery of the same name. I passed it on a few occasions when I lived in Brooklyn, but unfortunately I never partook in the legendary sourdough bread or pastries so gloriously photographed in this book. Hopefully, I’ll get a sampling on my visit. In the meantime, Bien Cuit: The Art of Bread gives generously from Chef, Zachary Golper’s bag of tricks. It’s the most artful book about baking bread I’ve ever seen. At the same time, the recipes and tips are detailed in a way that empowers, educates and informs the home cook. With the way Golper breaks down the hows and the whys, these recipes are clearly not meant to be a one-off. His goal is to convert you into lifetime baker. Some of the recipes are extensive. For example, his sourdough starter, which calls for a base of organic grapes, requires 30 days to fully ferment, but he’d actually prefer you wait a full 90 days to use it.
What are you reading right now?