As Always, Julia: The Letters of Julia Child and Avis DeVoto, edited by Joan Reardon
This was the first book I read after I completed my 2018 reading challenge, so I really dug in and allowed myself to savor every single delicious page. Incidentally, I have had this book on my shelf for years—I bought it back when I lived in Ohio—and had tried to read it before, but for whatever reason it didn’t grab me at the time. This time, however, I was immediately drawn into the endearing trans-continental correspondence of two dynamic and fascinating women.
What began innocuously over a fan letter that Child wrote to DeVoto’s husband—one that Avis herself answered—developed into a decades-long friendship, during which the women refer to themselves as “soulmates.” This compilation of letters never feels disjointed, reads almost like a novel and is mostly concentrated during the years when Child is abroad, wrestling doubts while working on Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I already knew I loved Julia Child—whose late-in-life renaissance is my life inspo whenever I’m feeling lost—but the real surprise here is how much I fell in love with Avis DeVoto, who is more than a match for Child in warmth and wit.
I was so eager to pass on my copy to a friend, I forgot to snap a photo but you can see the cover below.
The Mayor of Macdougal Street: A Memoir, by Dave Van Ronk
After a recent repeat viewing of the wonderful Coen brothers’ movie, Inside Llewyn Davis, I decided it was time for me to finally read Van Ronk’s memoir, which served as the brothers’ inspiration when making their film. Van Ronk was a instrumental pioneer in New York’s burgeoning folk scene in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and by all accounts he should have been as famous as his friends at the time, which included Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Art Garfunkel.
Van Ronk’s story, written mostly by him but finished after his death by a close friend, is always entertaining and several of his anecdotes are laugh-out-loud funny. Van Ronk talks about a time in New York that I’ll always be sad I wasn’t able to experience first-hand, but he also wisely posits that everyone who moves to New York—even him—thinks they arrived ten years too late.
I Might Regret This: Essays, Drawings, Vulnerabilities, and Other Stuff, by Abbi Jacobson
I’m a huge Broad City fan, and the premise of taking a cross-country road trip to find clarity after a break-up was irresistible to me, but unfortunately I didn’t love this collection of essays, lists and illustrations by Jacobson. There were some good parts but mostly it was a bit boring, which is surprising considering Jacobson’s obvious humor and observation skills. Overall this was a quick read, and I did appreciate the parts relating to her sexuality and her behind-the-scenes look at how Broad City came to be, but I was left wanting more.
The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah
I had a few issues with how this book was written—Hannah, who has written more than 20 novels, repeated a lot of phrases such as “it was bigger inside than it looked from the outside” and “buttery light” (ew)—but I couldn’t put this book down and raced through the more than 400 pages in just a few days. The story of Leni, fourteen when the book starts, and her parents as they embark on a new life in rural Alaska was riveting (if a bit overly dramatic at times) and by the end of the book I was sobbing. I’ve always been fascinated by Alaska, and Hannah’s descriptions of its wild beauty only made me more eager to visit (a friend of mine currently lives in Fairbanks, so I might just have to go).
The Library Book, by Susan Orlean
I love anything by Orlean (The Orchid Thief is one of my all-time favorites) and I love libraries, so it’s no surprise that I loved Orlean’s latest, The Library Book. She weaves together a whodunnit story of the 1986 Central Library fire in LA—a fire that raged for 7.5 hours, completely destroying 400,000 books and damaging 700,000 more—with the history and inner-workings of libraries in general.
Because I’m a total nerd, I actually teared up reading a play-by-play of the fire and Orlean’s musings on what books, and of course, libraries, mean to the world were genuinely touching. Although some people might claim that the Internet rendered libraries outdated and even useless, Orlean (rightly) presents an entirely different future—where libraries are not only still around, but more vital than ever.
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I’m hoping to read 65 books in 2019—follow along and let’s be friends on Goodreads!