Bedtime Stories, July 2014
- July 22, 2014
What do literary types have queued up on their nightstands and ready to read before lights-out? We asked a couple of them, and here’s what they said.
When you asked me what I am reading, I have to admit that I peeked at my bedside collection to make sure everything stacked there was “presentable”!
- The Last Taxi Ride by A.X. Ahmad. I loved this thriller about a Sikh taxi driver in NYC who is accused of murdering a Bollywood star. The pace and suspense are just terrific, and I was up most of the night reading it. I especially loved the references to the classic Bollywood movie Pakeezah.
- Freak Show Without a Tent by Nevin Martell. One of the most interesting travelogues I have read in a long time. Martell talks about being asked to enter piranha-infested waters, the “anals [sic] of history,” and trying to culturally fit into Fiji and then the U.S. The book is light and humorous and made me want to pack my bags.
- A Pinch of This, a Handful of That by Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal. I had to get this book out of my kitchen to actually read it. This gem of a cookbook reads like a love story of food adventures. The author shares insights into her life and the people who shaped her culinary dreams.
I’m also rereading:
- In the Shadow of the Banyan by Vaddey Ratner. This is one of my most favorite books of all time. I reread pages at least once a week to learn how a great writer writes.
- The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber. My editor recommended I read this book several years ago. I keep it by my bedside and revisit it every once in a while. Her stories about her father and food are simply beautiful and sometimes very funny!
I’m currently reading:
- Gods, Demons, and Others by R.K. Narayan. A very interesting read on Indian mythology.
- The Banh Mi Handbook by Andrea Nguyen. Just arrived at my doorstep, and my kids are already telling me that THIS will be the way they want to eat all summer: “crazy-delicious Vietnamese sandwiches.”
- Burnt Toast Makes You Sing Good by Kathleen Flinn. I was one of the beta readers of this book and cannot wait to read the final version of this memoir about family and food. I adored Flinn’s first book, The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry.
Monica Bhide is an engineer turned food/travel/parenting writer based in Washington, DC. She has been published in many major national and international publications, including Food & Wine, the New York Times, Parents, Cooking Light, Prevention, AARP-The Magazine, Health, SELF, Bon Appetit, and Saveur. Her work has garnered numerous accolades, including inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies (2005, 2009, 2010, and 2014). She is the author of three cookbooks, including, most recently, Modern Spice: Inspired Indian Recipes for the Contemporary Kitchen. In 2012, the Chicago Tribune named Bhide one of seven noteworthy food writers to watch. And Mashable recently picked her as one of the top 10 food writers on Twitter. Bhide’s first short story, “Mother,” appeared in the recently published Singapore Noir.
For a few months now, I’ve been dipping in and out of Hilton Als’ compassionate, profane essay collection, White Girls, which turns cultural criticism into autobiography and vice-versa. On the surface, the book is made up of profiles of “white girls,” who are often manifestly neither white nor girls — including Michael Jackson, Malcolm X, and Truman Capote, as well as Flannery O’Connor and Louise Brooks — together with Als’ thoughts on race, gender, sexuality, and art. He writes, “I see how we are all the same, that none of us are white women or black men; rather, we’re a series of mouths, and that every mouth needs filling: with something wet or dry, like love, or unfamiliar and savory, like love.”
I’ve been meaning to read Memorial: An Excavation of the Iliad by the poet Alice Oswald for a long time, and I’m so glad I finally did. Oswald takes apart Homer’s poem “as you might lift the roof off a church in order to remember what you are worshipping,” she writes in her introduction. She discards the speeches and battle tactics and who-insulted-whoms, but keeps the Iliad’s hard stones — the names of the dead. A list of men who have been dead for centuries sounds tedious, but in Memorial, every death is a fresh cut:
“MNESIUS rolled in sand THRASIUS lost in silt
AINIOS turning somersaults in a black pool
Upside down among the licking fishes
And OPHELESTES his last breath silvering the surface
All that beautiful armour underwater
All those white bones sunk in mud
And instead of a burial a wagtail
Sipping the desecration unaware.”
Next, I want to read Megan Abbott’s The Fever and Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides at the same time (the intersection of adolescence and mass hysteria is hard to resist), as well as Augustus by John Williams (it’s being reissued) and Faithful and Virtuous Night by Louise Glück (which is coming out this fall).
Annalisa Quinn is a journalist and critic covering books and culture for NPR. She’s a native of Washington, DC.
Have any bookworms you’d like to see featured in Bedtime Stories? Let us know who they are in the comments section below!