Sunday, February 28, 2016

Reading list

Since I love reading other people's book recommendations I thought I'd share what I've been reading since last summer.  I should do this more often but I tend to forget what I read before I get the chance to write about it. Really, considering how much the internet knows about us these days, shouldn't I just be able to ask Facebook or Google for a list of the books I read in the last year without having to enter them all in myself? Someone should invent an app for that.

So, here are the ones that I haven't forgotten yet!

In the Garden of Beasts - an interesting read for anyone in the Foreign Service, this is the story of the US Ambassador to Germany in the leadup to the second world war. It's terrifying to hear the description of a society unraveling and to read about the unwillingness of some to recognize the gravity of what was happening right in front of them. It was a bit disjointed (too slow at first and too quick to cover the end) but overall well written.

There's something eerily similar about these covers, no?

The Pope and Mussolini - Obviously I picked this one because I was moving to Italy and it did really help to fill out my understanding of more recent Italian history. Not a specifically fun read but an educational one and really interesting.

Under the Banner of Heaven - not Krakauer's best work but the subject matter was interesting. I did learn a lot about early mormon history (and here I thought that going to college in Arizona already gave me more background on LDS than most Americans). I didn't like that he conflates violent fundamentalists with basically any person with religious beliefs - but he mostly succeeds in limiting those opinions to the prologue and sticks to the facts otherwise.

Furiously Happy - read this one for book club, it wouldn't otherwise be the type of thing I would have chosen. It was certainly funny - and the discovery that the crazy-happy raccoon on the cover is REAL was reward enough - but it was also the autobiographical equivalent of Alice in Wonderland which is not really my thing.

The Martian - impossible to put down and now available in movie form! I liked it. You will too! (Maybe)

Catherine the Great - is it wrong that I liked this more than the comedy above? It's a really solid biography of, you know, Catherine the Great of Russia. The challenges she overcame and her skill at playing the power game even as a child were remarkable. Recommended if you like nonfiction.

Thunderstruck - I chose this because I liked 'Devil in the White City' and 'In the Garden of Beasts' (see above). It's about a killing in London and the invention of radio (with Marconi as the main focus). I didn't really enjoy this one as much. The details about the many, many ups and downs Marconi faced were just too ... detailed. With about 100 pages cut the book would have been just right. If you really like science this might be the book for you.  

Oh, Lord. I would really love to write the response to this one. I would title it 'Italian kids eat pizza and pasta : which doesn't require any rules at all and everyone seems healthy enough'. Really though, this book got me thinking about how I would deal with picky eating (with my own hypothetical future children of course). It also got me thinking about how really, truly unhealthy our eating habits have become. Not that I'm ready to give up my Lucky Charms and Spaghettios just yet, but maybe it wouldn't hurt to add in a few greens every once in awhile.

This one was recommended to me a few months ago. It was a sobering read but also hopeful in its message that it is possible to increase your odds of surviving a disaster.  Not just useful info for world travellers like myself, but for pretty much everyone.

I guess the Zika virus reminded me of Ebola and I ended up finding this in the eCollection at my library. Even having followed ebola very closely (back in Lagos, when ebola was spreading there) I still learned a lot from this book. It would be fascinating to talk with the author (who wrote the book ages ago) to see how he would fit the most recent epidemic into his understanding of the disease.



And from the self-help section:
The One-Page Financial Plan - useful but slightly repetitive


Adulting - I guess (hope) that all adults occasionally wonder if they're doing it wrong. It was gratifying to see all the super adult things I'm already doing - and humbling to have so many things to add to my to-do list.

I'd also recommend the podcasts I've been listening on the way to and from work.  
Stuff You Should Know and Things You Missed in History Class are the current favorites.

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Living the dream

It sure is a good thing I don't do this writing thing for a living or I'd have to start being a lot more grown up about it.

Speaking of grown up, I totally crushed the adult thing today (perhaps thanks in part to my most recent library loan - Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown which I've really enjoyed despite the fact that the author totally stole my idea).  See as evidence the really awesome Gnocchi & Sausage dish (recipe from The Kitchn) that I made from the fresh pasta lucky ducks like me can buy six days a week from the charming elderly couple down the street.

And not to be fogotten is the double win of finally seeing the Pantheon and scoring a Carmelized Fig gelato (king of gelatos) from the famous Giolitti. I swung by the Capuchin Crypt as well but I would count the rooms full of creepy skeleton art as a non-win.
I really have been meaning to visit for six months now.



I spent the rest of the day trying to recover from my epic morning walk and figuring out a few more wall decorations to make my apartamento a bit homier.  

Just another lazy Saturday in Rome.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Yet another 'undiscovered' Italian delicacy

Meet the anything-but-humble Cicerchiata.

It was ok. But boy does it get points for presentation.