Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Year's Resolution

I thought that I'd try and make a resolution that I might be able to stick to this year. So I looked at my list of holds at the library (bless the GVPL and all public libraries and those who work in them), and found that I'd let my hold list creep up to thirty items. Now sure, four are media holds and one is for a book that is missing, but still, some of these books have been waiting the better part of a year for me to read them.
So that's my resolution for this year; to read my way through all the books on my hold list before adding any more to it. It's the last part that's going to be the most difficult--I regularly cruise the "new additions" listings at the library's website and add them to my holds in order to keep as much of my reading as current as possible. Many of the books I read over the last year had been published in the previous or current year--something that has been rare over my reading life.
So my last book of 2008 was Margaret Atwood's Payback : debt and the shadow side of wealth, her Massey Lecture from last year. A terrific read, really, exploring our attitudes (both the current societal and the deeper long-term cultural) toward debt and lending. And it could not be more relevant, coming as it did just as the current economic hoo-rah came to the attention of the general public.
So for 2009, the first book I'm currently reading off my holds list is Twinkie, deconstructed : my journey to discover how the ingredients found in processed foods are grown, mined (yes, mined), and manipulated into what America eats. It's interesting, but the author, Steve Ettlinger, is no Michael Pollen (btw, check out the Bill Moyers interview with Pollen. It's available for free download And if you haven't read Pollen's Open Letter to the Farmer in Chief, you really should).
Ettlinger's writing isn't as clear or deep as Pollan's, although his idea, to track the ingredients list of an iconic American food, is a very good one. He is a bit lazy when it comes to questioning the ingredients list, however. When it comes to High Fructose Corn Syrup, he doesn't do much more than suggest that there is some controversy about the use of HFCS in the American diet. So far, at least, this is not a compelling or involving read.
Unlike, say, the book my daughter insisted I read: Smile When You're Lying: confessions of a rougue travel writer by Chuck Thompson.This is just a lot of fun to read. It's not going to change the world, but hopefully it will add a little much-needed balance to our perceptions of those lovely puff-pieces on exotic destinations in magazines and newspapers. This is a book that was worth the couple of hours I invested in it.

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