Now that grad school is over and I’m not required to read to prove how smart I am, I’m finding myself more interested in actually reading, like for fun. What a concept.
But shock of shocks, the two books I’m most interested in reading right now are about France. Yes, I am that predictable.
The first is The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food by Adam Gopnik.
Here’s the book description from Amazon: Adam Gopnik takes us on a beguiling journey in search of that meaning as he charts America’s recent and rapid evolution from commendably aware eaters to manic, compulsive gastronomes. It is a journey that begins in eighteenth-century France—the birthplace of our modern tastes (and, by no coincidence, of the restaurant)—and carries us to the kitchens of the White House, the molecular meccas of Barcelona, and beyond. To understand why so many of us apparently live to eat, Gopnik delves into the most burning questions of our time, including: Should a Manhattanite bother to find chicken killed in the Bronx? Is a great vintage really any better than a good bottle of wine? And: Why does dessert matter so much? Throughout, he reminds us of a time-honored truth often lost amid our newfound gastronomic pieties and certitudes: What goes on the table has never mattered as much to our lives as what goes on around the table—the scene of families, friends, lovers coming together, or breaking apart; conversation across the simplest or grandest board. This, ultimately, is who we are.
Sounds good, no? Or should I say, “non”?A definite must read for any francophile, history buff, or lover of all things food. Obviously, I’m the target market and will be picking it up as soon as it is released which, if you’re curious, is October 25th.
The other book, by Jill Jonnes, is even more France focused and is called Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It.
Here’s the Amazon description: A colorful cast of characters descended on Paris for the 1889 World’s Fair, and Jonnes (Conquering Gotham) offers an atmospheric overview of the celebrities who made belle époque Paris their stage during the memorable event. Annie Oakley amazed crowds with her precisely executed shots. Thomas Edison, a master at promoting both himself and modern technology, chafed at the leisurely French way of life, delighted the masses with his phonograph and chatted with Louis Pasteur at his institute. Paul Gauguin was enthralled by a troupe of Javanese temple dancers and miffed that the Americans only intended to exhibit 17 of his 27 etchings, while James McNeill Whistler, who delighted in provocations and feuds, decamped to the British, who displayed even fewer of his works. The fair’s undisputed main attraction both at the fair and in Jonnes’s account, was the controversial wrought-iron tower of unprecedented height that, Jonnes says, appeals for both its technological genius and its aerial playfulness and charm. It perfectly embodies the triumph of the modern that Jonnes so well captures in her sprightly account.
While this isn’t a new book release, it’s definitely a must read for yours truly, and just a further extension of all the material I read during my visual arts course last year.
Slowly but surely I’m trying to add more books to my new must read list but these two are currently at the top. I’ll start posting books of interest here more consistently in an effort to remind myself to read them and a book review here and there if I’m inspired. And, of course, if you have any book suggestions, please share them!