Saturday, January 3, 2009

Getting on Track -- and Book Reports

This past holiday season, I went to some pretty fun gatherings -- a brunch with our wine tasting group; a fabulous New Year's Eve dinner at my pal Kate's; lovely dessert on Boxing Day with my friend Judy.

I made Qugrainne's marvelous sugar cookies and wonderful nuts by Anno (not on her blog, but oh, to die for!). Mama K's Jingle Balls. Ginger cookies, white chocolate bark with cranberries, pecans and apricots; stained glass cookies; Kate's maple nuts; chex mix... that doesn't count regular meals -- including two fabulous restaurant meals and multiple holiday dinners!

(To be fair and a little less hard on myself, most of it, I did give away.)

It's time to get to work.

Right now, that involves going to the gym and doing the eliptical and probably picking up the weights again.

And doing crunches on the air ball.

While trying not to further injure what my docs think could be a torn rotator cuff. (MRI to come).

Wish me well.

Meanwhile, Laura of Maude and Mozart, had a fabulous post about books she'd read last year -- her top 10. Off-blog we were talking about books and she said I should list some of my favorites from last year, too.

So, here they are!

In the non-fiction category:

The Diana Chronicles by Tina Brown was fascinating. I thought I'd read what was to be written on Diana, and one never knows how much of bios like this are sour grapes or vendettas. It doesn't matter. Brown is a wonderful writer and outstanding researcher who dug up new info and put it together with the old in a fascinating, page-turning way. Lots of pages, but they flew by.

The Sisters, the story of the Mitford Sisters, also had lots of pages and was equally fascinating. It's hard to imagine how six sisters could all develop these amazing and remarkable lives -- often controversial, always fascinating. Nancy Mitford told her family story in novels like "Love In a Cold Climate." Mary S. Lovell straightens out the fact from the fiction in a well documented saga that follows Nancy, her Fascist sisters Pamela (Mosley) and Unity, Jessica -- the muckracking author and noted Communist; Deborah (Duchess of Devonshire) and Pamela, who chose a country life.

I'm partial to Blink for a couple of reasons. First of all, Malcolm Gladwell's fascinating book about snap decisions and trusting your gut was illuminating, intriguing and well written. It gives one something to think about. The other reason is more personal -- Kevin the college kid gave it to me for Christmas last year -- it was his first "grown-up" gift, carefully chosen for me. You've gotta love a book like that!


An Incomplete Revenge by Jacqueline Winspear is the most current of the paperback Maisie Dobbs mysteries. Maisie was a nurse in World War I, shell shocked, with a finacee who was so badly damaged, he simply cannot communicate. She's also a psychologist as well as a private investigator, so her cases are solved by more than just finding clues. In this one, what becomes a simple investigation becomes far more complicated when murder enters the scene. Winspear captures the years between the war accurately and her plots are intricate. If you like mysteries, the series is wonderful (and I recommend starting at the beginning). They are history novels as well as detective stories.

Crazy Aunt Purl is Drunk, Divorced and Covered in Cat Hair by Laurie Perry was the funniest read. And no, you don't have to knit to like it, but if you do, you'll like it more (including the patterns included). What makes this book a hoot is her saga of single life after divorce, wildly self-depricating humor and ultimate triumph.

The fiction book that made me most think was the least likely prospect to appear on this list. On Strike for Christmas by Sheila Roberts is a pretty lightweight novel, but it's fun. The premise: a group of "women who do too much" go on strike for the holidays, forcing their husbands (who take the holiday preparations for granted) to do it instead, often with predictable but still very funny results. Of course things go haywire, but they all find a new, different kind of holiday. (And the 12 recipes in the back look pretty good, though I haven't tried them yet.)

So, that's my top three in each category -- here are a few I also enjoyed and would recommend.


A Careful Use of Compliments -- Alexander McCall Smith (next in the Isobel Dalhousie novels)

Friday Night Knitting Club -- Kate Jacobs. (Do you see a knitting theme here?) A lovely story of friendship, though I felt a little betrayed by how one of the characters was handled. 'Nuf said -- no spoiler here!


I Shouldn't Even be Doing This -- Bob Newhart. Newhart's biography is a fun, good read. Many of his routines are printed in full.

What Would Barbra Do -- Emma Brockes. This is a wonderful treatise on musicals -- mostly movie musicals. Brockes is funny as she highlights favorites for different purposes -- musicals to introduce the non-musical fan to; musicals to get men into the genre; her love affair with certain shows. If you're a musical fan, this is a fun one. (She's English; I'm not sure if it's available here in the U.S.)

All of these books (except possibly Barbra) are available at local bookstores (and let me put in my plug for visiting your independent bookstore when possible) and online at or Barnes and Noble.


Joanne Huffman said...

I have to get back to the pool at the Y to start making up for holiday indulgences - I'll think of you as I walk my laps. And, I appreciate the book recommendations, thanks.


Herzblatt said...

That looks like being very sportive...I carried my boxes full of fabrics upstairs and downstairs...put them on the table....back on the floor, on the table...back on the that enough sports????...*lol* ...
And I dived like Dagobert Duck (unfortunately not in my strongroom) in my boxes full of wonderful Tilda fabrics...diving is very good...isn`t it??? And healthy, too....*lol*

Beth said...

these book lists are great....but geez, I have sooooo much reading to do now !!!

and WHOA, those gym equipment pictures totally scared me !!! I love going to the gym....but I hate it, too !!! {I think that makes sense to most people}

and I just had an MRI last night for a possible tear somewhere in my shoulder, but not the rotater cuff.....

so leaving on our trip is being postponed a few days from that and a few family issues...sigh !!!

Kris said...

Oh! Thanks for the books recs. I was just looking at the Knitting Mystery at Threadbare on Friday. I was interested. I read Qutliers, as we talked about, and am now reading Tiping Point and Blink is on deck. I will put your recs on my list. :>)

BONNIE K said...

I am still eating leftovers so I can't possibly think about the gym yet. Maybe next week. I enjoyed the book reviews.

Mary Timme said...

After the first of the year we have to park way down the line at the rec center, but we get good workouts for each of us and that is the goal. I always feel virtuous when I've sloughed through snow sleet or hail and done my workout. Sort of like I've got that day under my belt! I'm still thinking I need to make some dark chocolate covered dried apricots before the celebrating ends entirely. Hmmmmmm. They'd be yummy on a cold day!

Rosa said...

I'll have to look into these books! Tehe. WHen I first looked at the first picture, I was like "Wha is that?" tehe. Show's you the last time I was in a gym! xoxo

Anonymous said...

You know I've jotted down several of the books. I should be buying perhaps some new sweaters or shoes (for work, etc.) but NO! books, it is. Besides, books always "fit!"
So thanks for the list.
As for the fitness thing, um, yeah. I wish you well. And will likely try it out since the family gave me Wii Fitness for Xmas and I gotta give it a whirl.
Oh, my. That means getting up even earlier in the a.m.

We can do this!!!!

Beth said...

I am back to eating alot better tomorrow and try to start some excercises too. Going to have to check out some of the great books that you have listed. Thanks for that.

jet1960 said...

Good luck with the weights and the gym. I've thought about getting on my Gazelle thingy. Does that count? I'll have to check out some of those books.

Susie Q said...

Wow! Such great books...I will be checking your suggestions out!!

I love to find new good reads!


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