Books I’m Reading This Fall

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m nearly always in the process of reading several books at once — or rather, I’ll get distracted by a new book before I’ve finished the one I’m currently reading, so it will sit on the figurative back burner for a while (on the shelf or in my bag, depending on how much I really want to read it) until I get back to it. In the past few months, I’ve received a handful of new books, and I’ve been steadily working my way through them — books about everything from fine dining to the prison industrial complex, Haiti to hot sauce, Le Cordon Bleu to why being trans is awesome . 

The Sorcerer’s Apprentices: A Season in the Kitchen at Ferran Adrià’s elBulli (by Lisa Abend)
I just finished this about an hour ago. It was fascinating. I’m a bit of a foodie, and I loved reading about the cuisine and inner-workings of elBulli, a restaurant that was ranked the best in the world five times by Restaurant magazine — the restaurant of Ferran Adrià, who is widely considered to be the greatest chef in the world. I made a trip to the local library last Saturday and returned home with a stack of interesting books, of which this is the most recent I’ve read.

The Sharper Your Knife, the Less You Cry: Love, Laughter, and Tears at the World’s Most Famous Cooking School (by Kathleen Flinn)
There was a brief time, when I was younger, that I wanted to be a chef — or at least, I wanted to go to culinary school. At the time, I think my wish was the CIA (Culinary Institute of America). This book was about Le Cordon Bleu, cooking, living in Paris, following a dream, romance — it had a little of everything, and it renewed the idea that if I won the lottery, maybe I’d go to culinary school of some kind. Not to pursue a career, just to learn.

Are You Really Going To Eat That?: Reflections of a Culinary Thrill Seeker (by Robb Walsh)
This was the first of my library books from last Saturday. I really just love reading about food — about recipes, finding the best of a particular type of food, learning about other cultures through the foods they eat and the way they cook. It was definitely a fun read.

Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (by Eric A. Stanley & Nat Smith, editors)
I had been waiting for this book for months, and it is fantastic. I have been waiting for a book like this for ages, and it has exceeded my admittedly high expectations. I realized, however, that it may not be the proper book to read at work. I would find myself on the verge of crying and then needing to answer a call — I always pulled myself together in that second before answering, of course, but I decided that it might be a good idea to find something fluffier (thus the culinary books). Still, I carry Captive Genders in my bag for those times when I can grab a few moments to myself and know I won’t be interrupted.

Assata (by Assata Shakur)
I finally bought Assata; I’ve been meaning to for almost exactly a year. After starting it, however, I realized almost immediately that, even more so than Captive Genders, it’s far too upsetting a book for work. Perhaps finishing it will be something I do while recovering from surgery.

Instead of Prisons (by Prison Research Education Action)
Another book that I also now own! I was reading this before I received Captive Genders. I also carry it with me, actually: one of the great things about messenger bags is that I can carry so many books with me so easily.

The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You (by S. Bear Bergman)
This was my MN Trans Health and Wellness Conference 2011 purchase (I bought GenderQueer, Leslie Feinberg’s Trans Liberation, and Riki Wilchins‘ Queer Theory, Gender Theory at the 2009 conference). I was so excited about it . . . and then I got home from the conference to a book that a friend sent me, which immediately took precedence. Once I finished that book, however, I went directly to The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You, and it may be my newest favorite trans/gender-related book. I found so much with which I identified, even though S. Bear Bergman and I don’t have the same identities.

Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World (by Tracy Kidder)
This book was exactly what I needed, when I needed it. A friend sent it to me, and I received it after my first week at the new job. In an odd way, it was a little like going to see Dean Spade speak at Swarthmore during the spring of my senior year — it reinvigorated me and strengthened my sense of self and purpose. And a little like the Dean Spade lecture, that refreshed feeling that I could persevere came partly from the actual words and partly from the person from whom they were coming (in this case, the friend who sent the book to me). The book itself is about Paul Farmer and Partners In Health (to which you can donate here, as I’ve done), and it is outstanding.

I’m starting tomorrow with Gabriel Thompson’s Working In the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs [Most] Americans Won’t Do. I picked it up on the way out of the library because it looked interesting and relevant. Looking more closely at it, it reminds be a little of a more intense Nickel and Dimed (the book by Barbara Ehrenreich that was made into a play that we put on in high school). I don’t know anything about Gabriel Thompson yet: we’ll see how it goes.

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