Friday, 16 July 2010

Birthday Books

You may or may not recall that the day before we left to go to Italy was my birthday.  I got some great books for my birthday and I have now read them all.  I thought they were so wonderful that I should recommend them to you.

Vivien gave me three books:

Sew and Save
This is re-published from a 1941 edition.  War time rationing in Britain during WW II was no joke and this has some serious advice about how women could maximise the use of clothing during that time.  The content includes To Plan Your Wardrobe, Tools You Cannot Do Without, Tricks for Smartness and Make More of Old Clothes, to name a few headings.  It has inspired me to put aside at least 20 minutes a day to do mending and tackle alterations in the clothes I decide not to donate or recycle as textiles.
Make Do and Mend.
Much along the same lines as Sew and Save, but this book contains reproductions of official instruction leaflets issued by the UK government and includes some leaflets about food planning and saving fuel.  "Cooking for Victory means Cooking with Economy."  I find all this really fascinating and it really makes me appreciate what a soft life I have living in this day.

Seeing a Large Cat.  This is of course one of the series of Elizabeth Peters' books about Egyptologist and detective, Amelia Peabody.  I think this is the best one so far, as her precocious son, Ramses, has grown up enough to be interesting.  There are also two other, adopted, children in their teens and they seem to make the stories more sizzling and less soppy.  I'm still looking forward to the rest of the series.  

Bill also bought me three books, one a complete surprise:

At Home.  I think I'd just mentioned seeing a billboard for this latest release by Bill Bryson and he just said 'uh-huh'.  We are both major Bryson fans, though I've not managed to plow through A Short History; it's not so much history, in my opinion, as science.  I might give it another go, or not...

At Home I read in a couple of days, it was so interesting.  I expect I'll be sharing bits with you here and there.  If you like history, particularly, social history, I think you would enjoy this book.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Speaking of history and science, this book is both and more.  I had added this to my wish list of books some time ago, but had no idea it would turn out to be such a page-turner!  I read it practically non-stop, it was so good.  It reminded me a little of The Coming Plague, which I would also highly recommend, but it is also a biography of the Lacks family, past and present.  Though Henrietta Lacks has been dead for over 60 years, cells taken from her body had such a remarkable reproductive quality that they are not just still alive today but are a corner stone for human biological research around the world.  Though her cells, taken without permission, have launched a multi-billion industry, her family has seen none of the profits.  They didn't even know about the use of these cells, referred to as HeLa, until 20 years after her death.  In addition to learning amazing things about these HeLa cells, in a very readable way, the author, Rebecca Skloot, shares with us her adventures in researching this book, the evolution to date of medical ethics around tissue and cells and about the medical community's efforts to make amends to the Lacks family.

Driving Force.  I put this on my wish list after having reviewed my list of Dick Francis books and found one of the older ones missing.   Actually, though he died last year, there are still books being published that he co-authored with his son, Felix.  There was always some discussion about who actually authored his books, Francis or his wife, Mary.  That he continued publishing after her death suggested that he wrote them, though he always said she did the research and the books were a cooperative venture.  I presume Felix took over the researcher role.  The more recent books "feel" very much the same as the old ones, so I do think Dick Franis has always been at least the primary author.  That said, I rather hope Felix has picked up the knack and will be able to continue in the same vein for years to come.  Dick Francis' books are like comfort food to me.

As you can see, I had a great birthday!   Hard as it was, though, I took only Driving Force, a small paperback,  on vacation with me, along with a library book I was reading.  Had it been beach holiday, I think I would have taken a couple more.  I finished the Francis book on the plane over but the other book I took with me, while interesting, was not compelling.  On reflection, I think this is the best sort of book to take if you're travelling and want to see things along the way!  I read it before going to sleep and on long train journeys to pass the time.  I still haven't finished it, but I will before I take it back to the library:  

Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter.  This is the first of several autobiographical books.  She writes simply and beautifully and the insight she gives into the lifestyle of a middle class French family in the early 20th Century is what makes it enjoyable to read.  However, being spoilt by the drama of most of the fiction I'm accustomed to reading, I can't say it grabs me that much.  I picked it at the library because I'd always heard her name, but didn't know much about her.  I'm not certain whether I'll continue reading the other autobiographies, but I feel slightly better educated for having tackled this one.

What sort of books do you take on holiday with you?


James said...

So glad you enjoyed your Birthday, looks like a great selection of books. Also thank you for such a detailed and delightful series of post on your trip. As much as you enjoyed it, I'll bet it was nice to come home and catch your breath!

JO said...

Looks like you got a great selection of books for your BD. I always take books with in the when we go in the MH and pick up bargains as I go along. Also other MH'ers exchange books as we cross paths. I recently picked up some James Patterson books about Detective Cross. They move right along.