Thoughts on Kate Morton

Kate-Morton

I’ve had Kate Morton on my to-read list for quite some time now; I’ve seen rave reviews of her work on various literary-type blogs, writers whose judgment I trust, and since I thrill with delight over a historical novel, I knew I couldn’t resist her for long. On a recent library visit, I stacked up three of her novels on my arm: The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, and The Secret Keeper. When I came home that day, I sheepishly told my husband, “I might have bitten off more than I can chew this time…” Thank goodness for online library renewals!

HouseAtRiverton

I finished The House at Riverton, Morton’s debut novel, about a month ago, and honestly, I was underwhelmed. First of all, the story horribly depressing, which is not, I must clarify, an automatic deal-breaker for me. I actually appreciate (I don’t necessarily want to say “enjoy”) a sad and melancholy tale now and then, provided it also has redemptive qualities—life, after all, does not always include a Hollywood happy ending. I also tend to find depressing stories deeply emotionally compelling, and far more thought-provoking than the average “fluff” read with no lasting message. However, in addition to the depressing nature of the story, several of the characters in Riverton fell flat to me, and also, I predicted the major plot twist long before it happened, which is always unfortunate as a reader. [Incidentally, Riverton is basically Downton Abbey in novel form, so much so and with such eerie similarity that I finally Googled to see which one came first. Kate Morton did. To which I say, really, Julian Fellowes?!?]

I refrained, however, from passing full and final judgment on Kate Morton after reading Riverton, knowing that I had two more novels to try. I have slowly worked my way through The Forgotten Garden over the past several weeks, and I finally finished it yesterday, flying feverishly through the final pages and dying to know how the story would turn out. Although it still ends with a depressing finale, I felt less disturbed than I did after finishing Riverton. The characters felt more richly developed—and I certainly did not see that plot twist coming. Because the story spans multiple timelines and a rather confusing cast of characters, I found myself wishing I had started a “family tree” at the beginning, but I eventually got everyone straightened out.

Morton’s prose shines brightly in Garden, and a couple of times, I found myself taking pictures with my iPhone of a handful of delightful passages such as these (I would have highlighted had the book not belonged to the library!):

“Ever since Eliza had discovered the book of fairy tales in Mrs. Swindell’s rag and bottle shop, had disappeared inside its faded pages, she’d understood the power of stories. Their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.”

“What a delight it was to have a place of one’s own, an entire garden in which to Be. Sometimes Eliza liked to sit on the iron seat, perfectly still, and just listen. To the windblown leaves tapping against the walls, the muffled ocean breathing in and out, and the birds singing their stories. Sometimes, if she sat still enough, she almost fancied she could hear the flowers sighing in gratitude to the sun.”

“A story idea began to flutter on the edge of Eliza’s imagination; she snatched at it, refused to let it go, held on as it grew arms, legs, and a clear destination.”

 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Forgotten Garden, in short, and I can’t wait to dive into The Secret Keeper, which I have heard described as Morton’s finest and which I have intentionally saved until last. Hopefully it will not disappoint!

Thoughts on Wonder From an Airplane

[I wrote this piece on my iPhone during one of my flights earlier this summer. It not only represents to me the inadequacy of my words to capture the moment and its poignancy, but it also encourages me when I see the power of those same, inadequate words to help me remember what I experience in life, and to reorient my focus when I find myself aimless and scattered in my daily routine. Beauty shouts all around us... if we only have the ears to listen.]


Emerald Bay

Photo: Flickr Commons

We fly almost due East, and I see Lake Tahoe out my window to the left. Dusk settles over the lake, which looks massive even from the air, and I am suddenly transported down to the shore. I know exactly what this time of day feels like down there, the smells of pine trees and cooling sands, what the waves sound like as they mellow from their afternoon swells into twilight calm. I can make out Emerald Bay, the narrow cutout at the southwest corner of the lake, and I imagine the last rays of the sunset glinting off the windows of the Vikingsholm castle nestled on the far inland shore.

I’m reading N.D. Wilson’s Notes from the Tilt-a-Whirl and “The Greatest Story Never Told” from the Doctor Who season 4 soundtrack bursts through my earbuds, crescendos of climax as I look out the window again and catch a pale pink horizon with cotton candy clouds that look impossibly white against the earth below, which has already darkened into twilight. I find myself almost in tears, Wilson’s poetic prose swirling through my mind and my eyes transfixed by the sheer beauty of this impossible, ridiculous, seemingly insignificant but in fact massively important world. Have I been walking through life with my eyes closed? How long has it been since I saw—really SAW—the world this way, in all its extravagant magnificence? Why doesn’t this beauty thrill my soul and steal my breath every single waking day? The sheer wonder that I exist, and more importantly that I exist as a child of God, an image-bearer of the Creator in His wild world—it should bring me to the end of myself every single day. Why doesn’t it?!

One of my favorite Doctor Who scenes comes during Amy Pond’s first trip in the TARDIS, when the Doctor tethers her from the inside but allows her to float, weightless, in a “bubble” outside the TARDIS, protected and yet fully experiencing the wonder of open space. Her gorgeous auburn mane floats and swirls around her, and her rapt and wondrous expression says it all. How can this be real? How am I actually experiencing this?

That’s how I feel sometimes in this glorious and ghastly world. Sadly, I allow daily distractions to drag me down too often, but in moments like this, I wish I could see the world through those eyes of wonderment more consistently. I think I would smile even more than I do, and my attitude of gratitude would expand beyond the leaps it has grown in recent years.

I am grateful for the chance to pop the bubble I live in all too frequently – to more clearly see the everyday wonders that surround me – and I whisper, fervent and urgent, God, don’t let me forget this. Don’t let my eyes see without knowing. Don’t let me walk off this plane and forget the glory of this beautiful catastrophe of a world that You have created. I don’t want to be blind. I want to see and know, as I am seen and known by You.

After all, that is the Greatest Story Ever Told.

Day 31: Conclusion & Encouragement

Well, my first Write 31 Days challenge has been quite an adventure! To those of you who read and commented, thank you so much for following along. I have enjoyed the opportunity to reflect on my favorite books, and I am now eager to go back and re-read some old favorites that I had nearly forgotten.

I didn’t complete this challenge perfectly, but to successfully post 31 new blog posts within the month of October is a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m so glad I participated this year. I look forward to blogging more frequently (although certainly not every day!), and I would love it if you readers would share some topics about which you would like to see me write in the future.

I wanted to close this series with an encouragement regarding reading, as I frequently hear people say that they don’t “have time” to read. I could counter with many arguments, but this brief quotation from John Piper provides ample encouragement:

“Suppose you read slowly like I do — maybe about the same speed that you speak, 200 words a minute. If you read fifteen minutes a day for one year (say just before supper, or just before bed), you will read 5,475 minutes in the year. Multiply that by 200 words a minute, and you get 1,095,000 words that you would read in a year. Now an average serious book might have about 360 words per page. So you would have read 3,041 pages in one year. That’s ten very substantial books. All in fifteen minutes a day.”
[from When I Don’t Desire God]

I keep books everywhere – on my nightstand, on my desk, in the living room, in my purse – and with my Kindle, especially, I literally never go anywhere without a book, because I never go anywhere without my phone, and I at least have the Kindle app on my phone. It’s amazing how quickly the pages add up with just 5 minutes here, 15 minutes there, and the motivation to read whenever and wherever possible.

So don’t be frustrated if you think you don’t have time to read, and also know that, as with anything else, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Go forth, read widely, and read well!

This post is the final installment in the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 30: Favorite “Blogger” Authors

I spent two days highlighting my favorite blogs (day 1 and day 2), and I wanted to round out the series by highlighting a few favorite “blogger authors” – blog writers who have gone on to write a book or books. Some of my favorite books in recent years have come from bloggers I have followed for some time, and I love sharing these delightful authors.

Sophie Hudson – Sophie has authored the Boo Mama blog since 2005, and in 2013, she released her first book, A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon. I laughed and cried and absolutely adored this book. Annie Downs, another blogger-turned-author, put it best: “For the first time in my life, I’ve found a book I wish every woman in my family could read together. There isn’t a woman, no matter where she is from, who won’t connect with the heart of this book. But the Southern women? They will feel it deep in their souls. That’s the kind of book this is; the kind you read and feel and love and share.” Sophie’s second book, Home is Where my People Are, is set to release in February 2015, and suffice it to say, I will be pre-ordering it! 

Melanie Shankle – Melanie blogs at Big Mama, and she has also released two books: Sparkly Green Earrings and The Antelope in the Living RoomSparkly Green Earrings is a memoir of motherhood, and I laughed until I cried reading it – even though I don’t yet have children of my own, Melanie’s whimsical way of painting a vivid picture with her words had me laughing until I literally had to get up and get a tissue because I could no longer read with the tears streaming down my face. The Antelope in the Living Room, subtitled “The Real Story of Two People Sharing One Life”, shares the struggles and the deep joys of marriage, and although I think I laughed more reading Earrings, I also thoroughly enjoyed Antelope. Melanie’s third book, Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship, will release April 2015, and again, will definitely be on my pre-order list!

Myquillyn Smith – Myquillyn has blogged for years at Nesting Place, and her blog has become a go-to resource for me in working to make our house a home without being intimidated by searching for perfection. I was thrilled when she released her book earlier this year, The Nesting Place: It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful

“There is beauty in the imperfection. There is beauty in the lived-in and loved-on and used-just-about-up. Imperfections actually play a starring role in our homes and lives. Imperfections put people at ease.

Once we learn to accept and find beauty in the imperfections, we are free to take a risk in our home and create the home we’ve always wanted.”

NestingPlace

Photo Credit: Nesting Place

I couldn’t put The Nesting Place down, and it now lives on my coffee table, ready to be picked up and flipped through for continuing inspiration at any time. Not only does it provide wonderful encouragement, but it is also simply one of the most beautiful books I have ever seen.

Tsh Oxenreider – I couldn’t decide whether to mention Tsh in this post or in the favorite blog posts, but she almost falls outside either category! She founded and manages the Art of Simple blog, she runs the Art of Simple podcast (which I love and listen to frequently), she has published several books, and she and her husband recently launched the Art of Simple Travel blog, where they are chronicling their year-long, round-the-world trip with their three children – that’s right, a year on the road with 3 children under 10 years old. Quite simply, Tsh is an amazing inspiration, and I devour her content throughout the week.

Shauna Niequist – Last year, I picked up a copy of Cold Tangerines on my Kindle, and quickly blew through it and then through Bittersweet, both books collections of short essays that are readable, thought-provoking, and so encouraging. Then I discovered her latest, Bread & Wineand I absolutely loved it. My hardbound copy resides on my coffee table next to The Nesting Place, and I love leafing through it for inspiration.

BreadAndWine

Bread & Wine is a collection of essays about family relationships, friendships, and the meals that bring us together. This mix of Anne Lamott and Barefoot Contessa is a funny, honest, and vulnerable spiritual memoir. Bread & Wine is a celebration of food shared, reminding readers of the joy found in a life around the table. It’s about the ways God teaches and nourishes people as they nourish the people around them. It’s about hunger, both physical and otherwise, and the connections between the two.”


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 29: Favorite Blogs, Part 2

See yesterday’s post for the first installment of my favorite blogs! Here, in no particular order, are seven more of my favorite blogs for your enjoyment.

Jeff Goins – When I started seriously pursuing writing about 3 years ago, Jeff Goins was probably my biggest inspiration and encouragement to step out of my comfort zone, develop daily writing habits, and take the proverbial “just do it” approach. Writing doesn’t happen by just talking about it, and Jeff continues to provide excellent reminders of how to sit down, do the hard work, and “ship” without waiting for perfection before getting one’s words out to the world.

John & Sherry Petersik at Young House Love – Though John & Sherry have just recently decided to take an indefinite hiatus away from their blog, their archives should remain available for the foreseeable future. For anyone at all interested in DIY and home improvement on a budget, John & Sherry are an indispensable resource. Plus, they’re just flat-out fun to read.

Michael Hyatt – In recent years, Michael Hyatt has developed a reputation as one of the foremost influencers not only in developing and building a platform in the technological age, but also in developing excellent leadership skills and equipping new leaders all over the world. Through his speaking, coaching, and his phenomenally successful blog, Michael has become a source of profound inspiration and education for thousands of leaders – and even though his posts don’t always directly apply to my situation, I always enjoy reading them.

Carlotta Cisternas – I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon Carlotta’s blog, but within just a few posts, I knew she would become a new favorite. Her photography is stunning, her writing lyrical and thought-provoking, and most surprising of all, she is SO YOUNG. She is currently on an extended trip to Africa, so her posts have been particularly fascinating recently!

Jen Jones at IHeart Organizing – I have followed Jen’s blog for several years now, and her cheerful style and upbeat approach to the “mundane” tasks of home organization are so enjoyable to read. Her blog is chock full of brilliant organizing solutions, and endless inspiration.

Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience – I’ve already written about One Thousand Gifts, and it goes without saying that Ann’s gorgeous blog is also one of my favorites.

Becky at Clean Mama – I’ve only recently started following the Clean Mama blog, but I love it so far. Her commonsense approach to homemaking and cleaning feels completely achievable, and she has inspired me to put good routines in place for keeping up my house in just a few short minutes every day. Her Instagram is a great resource as well!


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 28: Favorite Blogs, Part 1

I am a self-confessed blog addict.

In addition to my reading of actual books every day, I also do a fair bit of electronic reading, usually browsing my favorite blogs. Over the years, I have collected a handful of favorites who I love to follow, and I’m excited to share them with you!

Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite bloggers:

Edie Wadsworth at Life in Grace – There are just not enough words to describe the delight that is Edie. She is the epitome of southern charm & hospitality, a voracious reader and classic literature nut, and perhaps my biggest inspiration of how to homeschool your kids and teach yourself at the same time. She and her family lost their home to a devastating fire several years ago, and I have counted it a privilege to watch, via her blog, as they have rebuilt their home and their lives to the tune of God’s unfailing grace and mercy. I just love Edie. And yes, I talk about her as though she is a close personal friend, even though I’ve never met her – although I did come THIS CLOSE during the She Speaks conference this summer (my one, single disappointment of the whole trip, but what a keen one!).

Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky – I’ve already written a mushy, fan-girl post about Emily, so I’ll direct you there. :)

Ruth Simons at GraceLaced – Ruth is one of my favorite follows on Instagram, and her blog is equally delightful. She and her husband have six young boys, and she runs an Etsy shop out of her house. Her artwork is beautiful, but her heart for Jesus is even more so.

Bonnie Gray at Faith Barista – I’m a relatively new follower of Bonnie, but thus far, her quiet and contemplative blog has deeply blessed me. Enjoy some white space as she serves up spiritual espresso shots of encouragement.

Paige Knudsen at Simple Thoughts – I’ve followed Paige for several years now, and I love so many things about her: her photography, the way she loves on her family for all the world to see, her gorgeous white-toned house, and her delightful southern charm.

Alissa Wilkinson – Alissa Wilkinson is Christianity Today‘s chief film critic and also assistant professor of English and humanities at The King’s College in New York City. I’ve only followed her for a couple months now, but her piercing insight into modern pop culture has provoked so much thought on my part, and I look forward to her reviews and other writing.

Tune in tomorrow for part 2! What are some of your favorite blogs?


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 27: George MacDonald

I confess at the outset that I have not read as much George MacDonald as I would like. I believe my first introduction came with The Parish Papers, a collection of three of MacDonald’s most beloved novels: A Quiet Neighborhood, The Seaboard Parish, and The Vicar’s Daughter.

ParishPapers

 

I don’t remember very many specifics about this collection other than the pure delight the stories provided as I read. [I love how this blog series makes me want to go back and re-read so many wonderful books I have enjoyed over the years!]

In high school, I read The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie, two whimsical tales of adventure and loyalty and friendship, and at some point in my early teen years, I read the fantastically odd At the Back of the North Wind. I started reading Phantastes sometime during high school, but I must admit to my shame that I never finished it. This title, in particular, having had such an influence on both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien among many other authors, has reached top priority in my current reading queue, since I know I cannot call myself a lover of fantasy literature until I have read this book, from the man Madeleine L’Engle called the Grandfather of Fantasy.

MacDonald was prolific in the best sense, and as I have reflected on my keen enjoyment of the handful of his titles that I have read, I am eager to dive in and read more.

Any MacDonald fans who would like to share your favorite titles? Tell me in the comments! 


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 26: The Lord of the Rings

I almost don’t know where to begin with today’s title, for numerous reasons. Countless writers more articulate and eloquent than I have already written so much that I know I have nothing new to add to the discussion, so I will simply share my own personal experience with The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien and how it has influenced my life. [Note: Even though Lord of the Rings was published as three books, I will refer to it as one, since that is how Tolkien intended it to be read.]

This is another case where I have to admit that I saw The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of Peter Jackson’s mostly-brilliant film adaptations, before I had ever read the book. My younger brother, at about age 7, had read the whole trilogy – continued reading even though the book gave him nightmares, which was hardly surprising for a 7-year-old! – but for whatever reason, I never had enough interest to pick it up and read it. But when that first movie came out, I knew I wanted to be cool and go see it with my brother; in fact, I remember when New Line Cinema released the first trailer for the film, and I watched it over and over again, asking Ryan to point out and introduce characters to me. When the movie came out on the big screen, I did go see it with my brother and my dad, and I have since seen it on DVD at least 20 times (no, I do not exaggerate). Obviously, I loved it, and before The Two Towers film released one year later, I had read the whole trilogy, and thoroughly enjoyed the second and third films (I saw The Return of the King four times in theaters, which is still a record for me!).

After all these years, I still find it difficult to put into words what makes Lord of the Rings so special to me, but perhaps this photo speaks the proverbial 1,000 words.

LordOfTheRings

In my junior year of high school, I took an advanced literature course that spent an entire semester on Lord of the Rings, and this is what my book looked like after the class. (What you can’t see in this photo is that there are sticky notes on all three surfaces, though you can only see those sticking out from the top and the side in the picture!) I have kept it exactly as I left it, removing none of those precious notes, visible reminders of one of the most profound literary experiences in my life.

In my encounters with Tolkien’s masterpiece, I learned, in a new and overwhelming way, the power of the imagination when an author brings an entire world to life in such remarkable detail; I observed the emotional strength of truly compelling characters, and how characters drive the story right off the page and into the reader’s heart; I saw fresh examples of true friendship and self-sacrifice, of loyalty and courage, of honor and faithfulness; and above all, I experienced once again the power of words to transfix, transport, and transform the reader.

I have not ventured back to re-read Lord of the Rings since that class in 2004. I’m not sure if perhaps I have feared that the experience would not be the same, but after pulling out my old copy and sifting through those priceless notes, I feel extremely motivated to go back and experience it all again. After all, a true classic, like a good wine, only gets better with age.

Have you read Lord of the Rings? Tell me about your experiences in the comments! 


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 25: Favorite Books on Writing

WritingBooks

My collection of books on writing is constantly growing, but it has become respectable!

I have to confess that I’ve been looking forward to this post all month. I knew at some point that I wanted to include a post with a list of my favorite books on writing, and I believe the time has come!

It goes without saying that great writers are, by necessity, also great readers – immersing myself in the great writing of others automatically encourages better writing from my own pen. It’s the one thing that you truly can learn about simply by reading! Of course, a good writer can’t just read about writing without ever sitting down to the page, but keeping a regular schedule of rigorous reading (not just beach fiction, in other words – not that there’s anything inherently wrong with beach fiction!) is absolutely indispensable for a writer.

In no particular order, here are some of my favorite books that inspire me, challenge me, and help me to hone the craft of writing.

A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman – I discussed this title in more detail in my Emily Freeman post earlier this month, so I will refer there for more details, but simply put, this is one of my favorite books on living a creative and Gospel-centered life.

Writing Tools, The Glamour of Grammar, Help! for Writers and anything else by Roy Peter Clark – Clark is prolific and absolutely brilliant. Enough said.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg – I think I initially read Bones on Emily Freeman‘s recommendation, and it has become a classic that I return to over and over again. It’s one of the best tools to silence my inner-censor/critic, and I really need that.

The Right to Write by Julia Cameron – There’s a lot of mythology and cultural “woo woo” that surrounds the idea of being a “Writer” in the capital “W” sense, but what I love about Julia Cameron is how she turns writing into something so natural, so simple, and so necessary. It’s a fundamental part of being human, she argues, and it doesn’t have to be a big production – you just sit down and you write. I have highlighted and written all over the margins of my copy. I love it.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott – Commonsense, hilarious, and down to earth advice not just on writing, but on life. I’ve marked this one up like crazy, too.

Walking on Water and A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L’Engle – You already know that I adore Madeleine, but these two titles in particular have been the most influential, specifically regarding my writing journey. Every time I turn the last page on either one, I want to flip right back to the beginning and start over.

The War of Art and Turning Pro by Steven Pressfield – I’ve read The War of Art at least once a year for the last 3 years, and I pick it up whenever I need a good kick in the seat of the pants. Steven Pressfield overcame outrageous obstacles before he finally made a career out of writing, but his years of practice and determination have yielded amazing fruit in his novels. Gates of Fire and Tides of War, his two novels set during the Peloponnesian War, exude such incredible detail (a result of years of meticulous research) that they “are now assigned by Oxford history dons who tell their students that if they wish to rub shoulders with life in classical Greece, read Pressfield.” [from the forward to The War of Art] Pressfield himself has been made an honorary citizen by the city of Sparta in Greece. How does an artist achieve such remarkable feats? By beating the Resistance, Pressfield argues – every opposing force that looms before the artist every time he sits down to create, be it prose or sculpture or music or entrepreneurship. Pressfield’s prose is brusque, and he uses strong language occasionally, but I highly recommend this book as a good motivator in overcoming the obstacles to doing what you are called to do.

Honorable mentions, which I have not yet read, but hope to do so soon:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

On Writing by Eudora Welty

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity by Ray Bradbury

The Story Within by Laura Oliver

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Am I missing anything to add to my list of writing / creative inspiration?! Tell me in the comments! 


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads

Day 24: Books That Make Me Want to Travel

YearInProvence

I blame A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle for my reading-inspired wanderlust. I had never read a travel memoir before I picked up Provence, and I absolutely adored the experience. Who wouldn’t enjoy this?!

“In this witty and warm-hearted account, Peter Mayle tells what it is like to realize a long-cherished dream and actually move into a 200-year-old stone farmhouse in the remote country of the Lubéron with his wife and two large dogs. He endures January’s frosty mistral as it comes howling down the Rhône Valley, discovers the secrets of goat racing through the middle of town, and delights in the glorious regional cuisine. A Year in Provence transports us into all the earthy pleasures of Provençal life and lets us live vicariously at a tempo governed by seasons, not by days.” [from Amazon.com]

Next it was Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, another charmer that had me enthralled and ready to jump on a plane to Italy from the first lyrical page.

“Frances Mayes—widely published poet, gourmet cook, and travel writer—opens the door to a wondrous new world when she buys and restores an abandoned villa in the spectacular Tuscan countryside. In evocative language, she brings the reader along as she discovers the beauty and simplicity of life in Italy. Doing for Tuscany what M.F.K. Fisher and Peter Mayle did for Provence, Mayes writes about the tastes and pleasures of a foreign country with gusto and passion.” [from Amazon.com]

I remember watching the Julia Child show a handful of times as a kid, usually on a lazy Saturday that involved lots of PBS, and when I stole My Life in France from my mom (oops, another Mom-book-theft… although I think I did return this one!!), I fell absolutely head over heels for Julia. She is pure delight, and her memoir of living in France is delicious.

“Julia Child singlehandedly created a new approach to American cuisine with her cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and her television show The French Chef, but as she reveals in this bestselling memoir, she was not always a master chef. Indeed, when she first arrived in France in 1948 with her husband, Paul, who was to work for the USIS, she spoke no French and knew nothing about the country itself. But as she dove into French culture, buying food at local markets and taking classes at the Cordon Bleu, her life changed forever with her newfound passion for cooking and teaching. Julia’s unforgettable story – struggles with the head of the Cordon Bleu, rejections from publishers to whom she sent her now-famous cookbook, a wonderful, nearly fifty-year long marriage that took them across the globe – unfolds with the spirit so key to her success as a chef and a writer, brilliantly capturing one of the most endearing American personalities of the last fifty years.” [from Amazon.com]

SweetLifeInParis

Also heavy on the foodie emphasis is David Lebovitz’s The Sweet Life in Paris: Delicious Adventures in the World’s Most Glorious – and Perplexing – CityI recommend this one with a grain of salt, as Lebovitz can tend toward the coarse side of humor at times, but I thoroughly enjoyed his humorous and irreverent depiction of the City of Lights.

Honorable mentions: I haven’t read these, but they are on my wish list!

Almost French: Love and a New Life in Paris by Sarah Turnbull

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, With Recipes by Elizabeth Bard

How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are by Anne Berest [this one was recommended by another of my favorite bloggers/authors, Shauna Niequist]

Yes, I have a bit of an obsession with Paris at the moment. :)

What travel memoir books would you recommend I add to my list?! 


Note: This post is part of the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by The Nester. To see the rest of the posts in this series, please see the introductory index post.
31 Days of Favorite Reads