Saturday, November 7, 2009

Books I have read recently

Since I've been taking the subway and there's a branch of Toronto's excellent public library near me, I've been reading a lot. I just put holds on books I might find interesting online, and then get an email when they're ready to be picked up. So in no particular order, here's what I've been reading lately:

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud'Homme - I haven't actually seen Julie & Julia. I'm horrible at watching movies, even ones that I know I'll like. But I borrowed this from my mom and devoured it. Of course, it made me want to live in France, etc etc. But it also gave me a lot of admiration for Julia Child, since I haven't watched her show much and didn't know much about her.

In Search of Memory by Eric Kandel - This book was great. Eric Kandel is a Nobel-winning neuroscientist who fled Vienna with his family at the beginning of WW2, started out planning planning to be a psychoanalyst, and eventually reinvented himself (and later, his lab) as a cell biologist, biochemist, and finally molecular biologist, all for the goal of trying to determine the biological basis of memory. The book was pretty heavy on the science (although not particularly obscure or technical) and it's obvious that he was totally devoted to his research. But the most interesting part for me was to read about how his research played out over decades (a perspective that I am sorely lacking), and how he collaborated with a wide variety of people in order to tackle problems in various subfields. I want to find more books like this - any recommendations?

The Tenth Muse: My Life in Food by Judith Jones - Judith Jones is the editor behind Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, as well as many other cookbooks, etc. She also had an interesting life, going to Paris for a trip and then...staying. In 1948. She recently wrote a book about cooking for one, something she had to do after her husband passed away.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - Been meaning to read this for a while. Excellent book but very sad. Not much else to say except that I recommend it. Just put a hold on his other book, A Thousand Splendid Suns.

The Alchemy of Air by Thomas Hager - This book is about the discovery and development of the Born-Haber process, which is used to turn gaseous nitrogen (which is plentiful but useless biologically) into the useful form that is the basis, among other things, fertilizer and explosives. It sounds boring but it was actually a really interesting book. I had no idea how important this development was, and the role of the German chemical companies in the Second World War was also all new to me.

This list doesn't include the many cookbooks I've also taken out recently. But I don't read those on the subway.

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