Friday, 9 May 2008

BOOKWORM'S CHOICE: PEANUT BUTTER, JAM, BEETHOVEN AND A NATURALIST

Welcome to the new Bookworm's Choice feature, an SAbookworm selection of the latest titles just released in South Africa.

The book summaries in this feature are based on those supplied by the publishers, and you can find out at the end of each one what the bookworm thinks of that title(!).

Fiction

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam
Lauren Liebenberg

The Voluptuous Delights of Peanut Butter and Jam is, above all else, a magical evocation of childhood; at times laugh-out-loud funny, at others heartbreakingly sad.
It tells the story of two young sisters, Nyree and Cia O'Callohan, who live on a remote farm in the East of what was then Rhodesia in the late 1970s. Beneath the dripping vines of the Vumba rainforest, and under the tutelage of their heretical grandfather, Oupa, theirs is a seductive world laced with African paganism, bastardised Catholicism and the lore of the Brothers Grimm - until their idyll is shattered forever by their orphaned cousin, Ronin. His arrival at the farm sets in motion a chain of events that result in tragedy and the loss of innocence.
The bookworm thinks: For those of us who grew up in the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's, there will always be a disconnection between the innocence of childhood and the environment in which it was lived. This book sounds particularly evocative, and one I've certainly put onto my reading list, especially since there's not only peanut butter and jam to be had, but also an heretical grandfather!
For more about this book, or to buy a copy, browse the book section at kalahari.net:
Browse kalahari.net Book Section
Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black
Nadine Gordimer
In this collection of new stories the author crosses the frontiers of politics, memory, sexuality, and love with the fearless insight that is the hallmark of her writing.
In the title story a middle-aged academic who had been an anti-apartheid activist embarks on an unadmitted pursuit of the possibilities for his own racial identity in his great-grandfather's fortune-hunting interlude of living rough on diamond diggings in South Africa, his young wife far away in London.
"Dreaming of the Dead" conjures up a lunch in a New York Chinese restaurant where Susan Sontag and Edward Said return in surprising new avatars as guests in the dream of a loving friend. The historian in "History" is a parrot who confronts people with the scandalizing voice reproduction of quarrels and clandestine love-talk on which it has eavesdropped. "Alternative Endings" considers the way writers make arbitrary choices in how to end stories - and offers three, each relating the same situation, but with a different resolution, arrived at by the three senses: sight, sound, and smell.
The bookworm thinks: I recently came across a review of this book in which the writer said she had always found reading Gordimer's work a bit like taking a pill. I'm afraid I fall into that category, no matter what accolades this elder writer may have garnered. I mean, just reading this description makes my eyes glaze over. If you're brave - and don't mind pills - you might want to give this one a try; I'm going to pass ...
For more about this book, or to buy a copy, browse the book section at kalahari.net:
Browse kalahari.net Book Section
Skylark Farm
Antonia Arslan
At the age of thirteen, Yerwant left his home in the Anatolian hills of Turkey to study at an Armenian boarding school in Venice. Now, in May 1915, after forty years, he is planning a long-awaited reunion with his family at their homestead, Skylark Farm.
But while joyful preparations for Yerwant's arrival are being made in the town of his birth, Italy enters the Great War and closes its borders. At the same time, in Turkey, Yerwant's family begins a brutal odyssey of hunger and humiliation at the hands of the Young Turks who are determined to rid their nation of minorities. Fighting brutality with love, courage and hope, four of the family's children set out on a dangerous and daring course of their own: to reach Yerwant, and safety, in Italy.
The bookworm thinks: Like the movie The Rabbit Proof Fence, this is a book about the outer journeys that frame our inner journeys, and of how - no matter what - we are all at the mercy of history. Definitely on my reading list.
For more about this book, or to buy a copy, browse the book section at kalahari.net:
Browse kalahari.net Book Section
Non-Fiction
The Economic Naturalist
Robert H. Frank
This book helps you discover the secrets behind hundreds of everyday enigmas. Why is there a light in your fridge but not in your freezer? Why do 24-hour shops bother having locks on their doors? Why did Kamikaze pilots wear helmets? The answer is simple: economics. Economics doesn't just happen in classrooms or international banks. It is everywhere and influences everything we do and see, from the cinema screen to the streets. It can even explain some of life's most intriguing enigmas.
For years, economist Robert Frank has been encouraging his students to use economics to explain the strange situations they encounter in everyday life, from peculiar product design to the vagaries of sex appeal. Now he shares the most intriguing - and bizarre - questions and the economic principles that answer them to reveal why many of the most puzzling parts of everyday life actually make perfect (economic) sense.
The bookworm thinks: Come to think of it, why is there a light in the 'fridge but not in the freezer? This sounds like an excellent read in the tradition of Freakonomics and, since I'm fascinated by the connection between economics and life as it is lived, this one is also definitely on my reading list.
For more about this book, or to buy a copy, browse the book section at kalahari.net:
Browse kalahari.net Book Section
Real Simple Fuss-Free Meals
Struik Publishers
We all like savouring dishes that are cooked from scratch, but with the daily stresses of a challenging job and a demanding family, food that's quick to prepare - and not always healthy - often wins out. Not any more.
If you're wondering what to make for dinner (again), how to entertain guests with hors d’oeuvres that don't come out of a packet, how to make a meal of the lone tin left in your pantry, or how to put a dish together without turning on the stove, you'll find the answer in these pages.
With easy-to-follow methods and hands-on time frequently under 30 minutes, you can have it all - delicious, healthy meals and time to spare.
The bookworm thinks: My kind of book - it's on my wishlist already.
For more about this book, or to buy a copy, browse the book section at kalahari.net:
Browse kalahari.net Book Section

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