dandy reads | 2014.1

Love & War | Mary Matalin + James Carville

Maybe you have to be either from Louisiana or really into politics to know about James Carville? In case you're not familiar, Carville was one of Clinton's campaign strategists... and a diehard Democrat. His wife, Mary Matalin, worked in the White House under George H.W Bush, and then again with Dick Cheney... and she's a diehard Republican. After years living in DC, they moved to New Orleans after Katrina and then co-wrote this book. It felt more like listening to your two crazy relatives argue on two rocking chairs on the front porch than reading the memoir of two very smart politcal strategists. Something about that bothered me. My favorite part was at the beginning, when they talked passionately about New Orleans, and it went downhill from there. Oh, I also enjoyed Facebook stalking their daughters afterward. It was a great reminder to update my privacy settings...

"After we moved here, my children said to me one day, 'Dad, would you give us a ride to Pinkberry?'
I said, 'Pinkberry, what the hell is that?'
They said, 'it's a yogurt place.'
So I told them, 'We do not eat frozen yogurt in this family. We have snowballs, goddamn it.'"

Attachments | Rainbow Rowell

I love light books like this, because I never expect too much out of them and therefore am never disappointed. I expected Attachments to be fun, quick and light, with maybe a dash of that giddy feeling you get at the end of a great romantic comedy -- and that's exactly what I got.  Two co-workers talk about anything and everything over e-mail, not knowing that the cute guy in IT is also reading their e-mails... and falling in love with one of them. You don't need to know anything more than that.

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup. October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!” 

The Goldfinch | Donna Tartt

And on the opposite end of the spectrum, this was NOT quick, NOT light, and NOT fun, but pretty freaking great. I have a love/hate relationship with books like this one, where I sympathize with the main character and then watch in horror as they make mistake after mistake after mistake until I no longer like them... but am attached nonetheless. Everyone and their pet goldfinch has raved about this book, and it won the Pulitzer, so there's really not too much I need to add to that conversation.

“—if a painting really works down in your heart and changes the way you see, and think, and feel, you don’t think, ‘oh, I love this picture because it’s universal.’ ‘I love this painting because it speaks to all mankind.’ That’s not the reason anyone loves a piece of art. It’s a secret whisper from an alleyway. Psst, you. Hey kid. Yes you.” 

The Best American Travel Writing 2011 | Edited by Sloane Crosley

I know, I know, 2011 called and it wants its book back. But when I felt inspired to read some travel essays before we left for Israel, I specifically chose this volume because it was edited by one of my favorite authors, Sloane Crosley. I expected some witty essays about travel; instead I got some horribly depressing articles about life in other countries. Oh, and every other one of them was about a terrorist attack (at least it felt that way) -- not the best pick before flying to Israel. Eye-opening, interesting, and well-written for sure, but not what I was expecting. 

"In the morning, merchants came down from the hills past our front gate with baskets of fruit balanced on their heads, and at night in bed under the mosquito net, when the moon was silver and big, we heard voodoo drums and strange, spooky singing. I don't know if I've ever liked a place more in my life." --Mischa Berlinski, "Vernance La France is Not Dead"

"But that's the point of flying halfway round the world -- to see what you didn't expect to see." -- Verlyn Klinkenborg, "The Vanishing Point"