Here are some of my most memorable reads in 2013.
On the Noodle Road: From Beijing to Rome, with Love and Pasta by Jen Lin-Liu
Who really invented the noodle? Lin-Liu travels along the Sillk Road linking Asia to Europe, making and eating pasta, in order to try and find the answer.
Day of Honey: A Memoir of Food, Love, and War by Annia Ciezadlo
Annia Ciezadlo spent her honeymoon in Baghdad and then spent many years in Lebanon. For Ciezadlo, cooking and sharing meals created community and continuity while living in war-torn lands.
Desert Terroir: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Sundry Places of the Borderlands by Gary Paul Nabhan
Nabhan explores the connections between food and the land through stories of some of the iconic flavours of southwestern United States, such as Mexican oregano, mesquite-flour tortillas, discovering unexpected connections with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern desert food.
The Whole Fromage: Adventures in the Delectable World of French Cheese by Kathe Lison
Lison explores the many, many varieties of French cheese, meeting with shepherds, dairy scientists and cheesemakers across the country.
Longbourn by Jo Baker
Jane Austen’s books are written from the perspective of the gentry. Longbourn looks at the story from the servants' perspective. Descriptions of scrubbing laundry by hand made me very grateful for washing machines.
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
This is one of the most eccentric and delightful books I’ve ever read. Escaping from a nursing home on his birthday, he runs into a series of unusual characters, slowly recounting his personal history – encounters with Presidents, work on the atomic bomb, and much, much more. Jonasson's next book, The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, is scheduled to come out this spring.
The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley
Interest in a Russian carving leads to a fascinating tale of Jacobite intrigue in Scotland and France and romance in Russia under Empress Catherine.
On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz
Horowitz discovers entirely new ways of viewing her New York neighbourhood through the eyes of a toddler, a geologist, a physician and a sound designer, among others. The book brings home the fact that we view the world through blinders, missing more than we actually observe.
Feral: Rewilding the Land, the Sea, and Human Life by George Monbiot
Human beings like to be in control, but we don’t do a very good job when we try to control nature. Monbiot argues for stepping back and letting nature take its course. Check out my full review of the book on EcoFriendly Sask.
Second Suns: Two Doctors and Their Amazing Quest to Restore Sight and Save Lives by David Oliver Relin
Two surgeons develop an inexpensive way to perform cataract surgery on improvised operating tables in remote parts of the Himalaya – a profoundly moving story of the difference that we can make in other people’s lives.
Overbooked: The Exploding Business of Travel and Tourism by Elizabeth Becker
Becker explores the explosive growth of the travel industry and its impact on the environment and the economy, a cautionary tale of rampant tourism.
Fast Times in Palestine: A Love Affair with a Homeless Homeland by Pamela J. Olson
This book opened my eyes to the tragedy and challenges faced every day by the people of Palestine.
Bonus – Mysteries
For lighter reading, here are three mystery authors whose books I discovered and enjoyed this past year.
Charles Finch – Set in England in 1865, an aristocrat and member of Parliament is also a very clever sleuth. The first book in the series is A Beautiful Blue Death.
Top Ten Books of 2012