January 20, 2006

Book Report #1

This year, I'm not even attempting to set a pseudo-numerical goal.

I'm just going to keep track of the books I read for my own sake. So far, 2006's list includes:

1. Perfectly Reasonable Deviations From the Beaten Track, a collection of Richard P. Feynam's personal correspondence. Like all of Feynman's writing, it's funny, intelligent, witty and interesting. More than his other books about his life, this book allows you to see the emotions in his personal relationships. It also tells many great stories about the development of particle physics. Grade: A.

2. Harvests of Joy -- How the Good Life Became Great Business. This book tells the story of the Mondavi family through the eyes of Robert Mondavi, the narrator. According to many, Robert Mondavi is single-handedly responsible for changing Napa valley from a wine-growing region to a center for excellence in viticulture, food, & art. Regardless of whether there were others involved in the evolution, Robert Mondavi was an amazingly driven man, often at the expense of his personal relationships. This book tells those stories, as well as the history of Napa valley as it developed, and how love, maturity, and the Italian-immigrant family ties eventually overcome the fractures between Robert and his family. Grade: B.

3. The Tomato in America -- Early History, Culture, and Cookery by Andrew F. Smith. I bought this book because I realized that the possible audience was so small. I am one of very few people who would consider reading it, so I did my duty. It was educational and interesting, although the writing was more academic than I expected (endnotes at the end of every chapter) and the organization was hard to follow at times. Instead of weaving together stories or presenting a single unified theme, the book is true to the history, which means it's all over the place -- in the South people ate tomatoes long before the people in the North did. Some people did think if you ate tomatoes you'd be poisoned. But many others used them in recipes as early as... Overall, it kind of read like a high school research paper. But I learned about the tomato pill wars & the back contains a recipe for tomato pickles from 1831 which I will attempt to use one day, so I did get my money's worth. Grade: C.

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