Bookish and Not So Bookish Thoughts

I’m still glowing in the aftermath of a nearly perfect vacation. I don’t even mind all the laundry that I have to do. To get back into the swing of things, I decided to make my first blog post in a while not entirely about books.

  • Since our vacation this year included air travel, I had to impose a strict 2-book limit on every reader in the family. Usually, our vacation preparation includes a trip to the library to fill a big bag with any book that we think might strike our fancy. This time, we had to skip this tradition. After reading Marina Sofia’s post about Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, I was pretty sure I should take this book with me. Unfortunately, in the pre-pack chaos that ruled my house before our trip, I couldn’t find it. But I came across my copy of Maylis de Kerangal’s The Heart (which Jacqui mentioned in a post for Women in Translation, albeit with the title Mend the Living) and, newly intrigued by my American cover, I decided to take that one instead. The curious mix of detached narration and deeply personal details somehow made this a perfect book to read in bits and pieces. It was a moving reading experience. My second choice was L. M. Montgomery’s The Blue Castle. I’m planning a review in November, when Sarah and Naomi will do a read-along, but let me tell you that it was the perfect book to read on an 8-hour plane ride, whose end meant only the half-way point of a 25-hour trip home.

  • Of course it didn’t rain once while we were away, so I wasn’t surprised to see my vegetable garden in rough shape upon our return. Based on what I saw in some of the gardens in Germany, I wonder whether I am supposed to cut back the old leaves on zucchini plants so that the new growth and the flowers don’t get covered up by rotting leaves. Any gardeners here who can tell me? Despite the dry conditions, we are now inundated by zucchini, and I foresee many zucchini breads in our immediate future.
Batch #1 (one zucchini down, six to go…)
  • To lessen my homesickness, I am planning to give renewed attention to my current favorite cookbook: Classic German Baking. I might have to contend with bland bread now that I’m back in the States, but I can certainly brighten my afternoons with some good coffee or tea and cake. It has cooled off a bit around here, so no one will mind the oven being on. (Plus, wouldn’t Pflaumenkuchen (yeasted plum cake) be a good alternative to zucchini bread?)

  • Is there anything more delightful than the unexpected surprise of a little bookstore in the middle of nowhere? In Switzerland, right next to this…

…there was this…

A tiny help-yourself book store! I didn’t have much time to browse, but I couldn’t leave empty-handed. Conveniently, no one thought to bring up the 2-book limit on the way home. Thus, no one questioned me when I added the following to my suitcase: a 1959 edition of Günter Grass’ Die Blechtrommel (The Tin Drum), Ralph Giordano’s Die Bertinis (a family saga set in Hamburg, spanning the first half of the 20th century), Dörte Hansen’s Altes Land (This House Is Mine), Feridun Zaimoglu’s Leyla (growing up in Turkey in the Fifties), Jostein Gaarder’s Der Geschichtenverkäufer (The Ringmaster’s Daughter), Maria Gräfin von Malzan’s autobiographical Schlage die Trommel und Fürchte Dich Nicht (resistance to the Nazi regime in East Prussia) and Judith W. Taschler’s Die Deutschlehrerin (a thriller that my mom highly recommended). I’m looking forward to reading my new treasures.

  • I did well with my 20 Books in Summer challenge this year. I read 21 books, a good number of them from my original list. But I am lagging behind with my reviews; hopefully, I’ll catch up soon. I am not quite sure what to read next. I love making lists of books to read, but I think I’ll take a little break from planned reading and simply see what strikes my fancy. A trip to the library is in order. (I didn’t say I would read my new treasures from Europe right away…)
  • The Literature and War Readalong, hosted by Caroline, has Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony scheduled for September, and the Literary Wives Club will be discussing Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill on October 2. Won’t you join us?

What was your favorite book this summer?

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19 comments

  1. It sounds as though you had a lovely trip to Europe, just the thing to recharge your batteries. The de Kerangal is an interesting book, isn’t it? I’m glad you found it so moving. I really liked the way she combined all the clinical, ethical and personal issues in the narrative. Funnily enough, another friend is reading it right now and loving it – so much so that she might end up choosing it for our book group as it’s her turn to pick next. I think it would be a good one for a discussion.

    PS I love the idea of that help-yourself book store in the middle of the countryside. What a wonderful discovery! You did well there.

    • I think that book would be excellent for a book club discussion. I think it’s a great accomplishment that she was able to make it clinical and touching at the same time. My book club unfortunately tends to select feel-good books set in the 80s. There’s never anything really to discuss, other than the terrible clothes we wore back then. 🙂

  2. So happy you had such a nice trip home. It’s really saying something that you didn’t even mind the laundry… I know!
    Yay for The Blue Castle – can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
    Ah, zucchinis. I like to shred them up and freeze them in mason jars – the perfect amount for two dozen zucchini muffins. Yeasted plum cake also sounds good. I would love to hear about anything you try from your German cookbook!
    What a fun bookstore find! I’m glad you had space to bring home some new books. It makes coming home easier, doesn’t it? I’m planning a similar post about my summer with some good finds! I just have to find the time to get it done… Sigh.

    • As you know, I was a bit worried about this big trip, but it all turned out just great. We had a wonderful time. That bookstore was extra icing on the cake! Should I ever get my freezer I was promised for my birthday, I will follow your tip about freezing shredded zucchini. Do you happen to know whether I should cut back the old leaves on the plants? I do hope you’ll find time for a summer summary post. I love reading them! (Alas, I know all about the shortage of time!)

      • From what I know (which is not much) I think you can cut off the brown leaves. And if you want all the plant’s energy to go into the fruit that is already growing, you can prune any new leaf growth. Does that help?

      • Yes, thank you. I think next year, I will try cutting off the brown leaves. (Not sure if I need to prune the new growth, since it doesn’t look like I need to encourage fruit production; there’s plenty of that!)

  3. So you weren’t too far away from me then? 🙂 Not that I live close to the mountains.
    I hope you’ll be glad to hear that German Literature Month preparations are underway.
    Thank you for the link.
    Where did you take the first picture?

      • I actually didn’t know you were in Switzerland; I thought you were in France. We were really close then for a little while, since we drove through Basel on our way to Thun. My husband and I were laughing about how different the German and American ideas of “long” and “rush hour traffic” are. 10 minutes of heavy traffic are nothing compared to 1 hour of moving at a snail’s pace.

  4. I read quite a few really good books this summer, got lucky there. Highlights included The Visitors by Catherine Burns, (an ARC, think it is out soon), Fall On Your Knees by Ann-Marie MacDonald (older book, check the library), Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay, The Town that Drowned by Riel Nason and Prairie Ostrich by Tamai Kobayashi, most of these are Canadian authors except for Catherine Burns.

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