October 29th, 2009


# 73 How I Learned to Cook

How I Learned to Cook

Kimberly Witherspoon, Peter Meehan (editors)

How I Learned to Cook is a collection of essays by famous chefs detailing how cooking became, for them, not just a passion, but an avocation, or just detailing a lesson or two they learned along the way.

Chefs who specialize in all kinds of cuisine are featured: from Mario Batali to Masaharu Morimoto, from French cuisine to Mexican.

Some of the stories are funny, some are poignant. Each in its own way, is interesting.

How I Learned to Cook is light, fun foodie fare. I whiz-banged right through it in a couple of days, and really enjoyed it. It didn't hurt that I curled up with it on the chilliest days of the year so far, while the mouth-watering aroma of Hungarian goulash bubbling merrily away in the crockpot wafted through the apartment. I would have enjoyed this very much regardless, but when the atmosphere adds to the reading experience it can only enhance the pleasure.

58. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami

58. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle - Haruki Murakami - 611 pages (6/10)

I read an interview wiht Haruki Murakami in The Paris Review earlier this year and it made me want to read his work. Initially, I really liked this book. But then it dragged on, and on, and on. I realize that Haruki Murakami's work is strange and surreal, but I think I personally as a reader need slightly more logic in my narratives.

I had an issue with the main character, Toru. He was passive and uninteresting. He had a decent job as an office drone at a law firm and quit to decide what to do with his life. In the end, he doesn't seem to ever decide anything, but goes along with the strange women that float in an out of his life. A woman keeps calling, trying to have phone sex with him. His wife grows increasingly distant. He begins spending time with a young teenaged girl who lives next door and can't be bothered going to school. She seems to fall for him and he comments about her body. A psychic and her sister come calling to help him find his missing cat. An older woman stops while he sits on a bench and takes him under her wing, buying him expensive clothes and pushing him into a job where she "fits" clients, whatever that means.

Interspered through this are long tangents of war stories. I gathered the novel was somehow a commentary on post-war Japan, but it never became clear to me how exactly so. Again, there was the same issue of the war stories initially being interesting but then my interest flagging when it dragged on.

The ending was my main issues with this book. It just...ends. No clear conclusion. I thought perhaps I had an incomplete book. It was unsatisfying. My friend says I would probably enjoy Kafka on the Shore more and thinks I will have more of a connection with the characters. I love surrealist work on occasion, but I have to like the characters enough to follow them through their strange worlds. I really didn't care about Toru and his cat. In fact, I may have found the cat more interesting.
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I recently picked up Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation and What To Do About It at a secondhand bookstore. The previous owner, who left an airport coffee rewards slip in the book, made a few marginal notes in the first few chapters but left the remaining pages unmarked (and unread?) I got all the way through it and will write Book Review No. 43 before putting it in the box for the next trip to the secondhand bookstore. Imagine a breathless book-length infomercial for Key Group, complete with the usual business-guru format, including the obligatory "maximize your human resources" (otherwise known as "disguise your innumeracy by displaying it promiscuously.")

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