Books Read 2020: First Half of the Year

So usually I do this as an end of year post, but I’ve read a lot this year so far, so I’m breaking it up.

Fine Eyes and Pert Opinions by Maria Grace
You can definitely tell this is by Grace – as much as I love her work, I feel like her writing is starting to get a bit formulaic in thoughts and writing. It had an interesting twist, but definitely not my favorite by her.

Darcy’s Winter Delight by V.L. King
Oh, P&P PWP (porn with plot). Preggers Lizzy, annoying Lady Catherine, random cottage. Fairly implausible plot just to have a lot of steamy D&E action.

Pride, Prejudice, and Pleasure: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Jane Austen/Georgette Brown
P&P retold starting at Rosings with plenty of flashback. Original character as a woman who teaches Elizabeth Bennet about sex with Darcy as the teacher … sometimes forced in.

My Darcy Mutates by Enid Wilson
Collection of steamy/sensual P&P shorts … all with lots of sex. Split into three different themes – regency, sci-fi, and modern.

My Darcy Vibrates by Enid Wilson
Same as the above, but with the split themes as past, present, and future.

First Impressions by Debra White Smith
A contemporary retelling of P&P that modified the original plot enough to be interesting … and then ruined it by making the characters also act out P&P for the stage. Seriously?

Paladin’s Grace by T. Kingfisher
Still in the same Clockwork universe and still awesome. Have loved Kingfisher for years and will always recommend. I also love how she doesn’t get predictable and leaves some mystery.

Darcy’s Voyage by Kara Louise
Highly different P&P variation and one of the more original I’ve read. Quite enjoyable. Ocean voyage, chance meeting, creative.

Mistletoe Games by Jaci Burton
Compilation of three short stories – clearly purchased due to the hockey one. Baby-making baseball one was weird. The surfing one included a threesome/polyamory which is not super common in mainstream romance novels.

Taking a Shot by Jaci Burton
More hockey romance. Same universe as Burton’s other stories. Not NYC-based like most which is nice. However, I still have the same quibble about the absolutely terrible team names in hockey romance novels – they’re completely unoriginal or at the very least belong as a minor league team name and not as a major one.

All Bets Are Off: My Journey of Losing 200 Pounds, a Showdown with Diabetes, and Falling in Love with Running by Betsy Hartley
Great non-fiction book by a fellow Skirt sister (whom I’ve met!) about her weight loss journey and reversing type-2 diabetes. It’s all about the subtitle and all of the mess that comes with it. Super candid and relatable.

Finding My Voice: Tales from IRONMAN, the World’s Greatest Endurance Event by Mike Reilly with Lee Gruenfeld
Tales from the Voice of IM. Teared up. Read it to be inspired and you might want to do this amazing, beautiful, crazy thing they call IM too.

1984 by George Orwell
I’ve somehow avoided reading this until now where I finally decided screw it, why not. Mostly to understand if we’re heading that way like everyone says. Um, no. Not quite (though it’s certainly possible). Also: how the eff do they expect HS kids (or younger) to understand this?

Upstream by Mary Oliver
So many people have recommended reading Oliver … especially with her passing earlier this year. This was a book of collected essays and she really is a beautiful writer. Although screw Whitman.

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver
Collected poems. Nature, mostly. I get why she’s popular. The world did lose a beautiful soul when she passed.

Natural Born Heroes: Mastering the Lost Secrets of Strength and Endurance by Christopher McDougall
SO GOOD. Better than “Born to Run” in my opinion. Great combination of not only stuff on running and longevity, but also wacky WWII hijinks of a German general kidnapped on Crete.

Whiskey in a Teacup by Reese Witherspoon
Part memoir, part cookbook, part guide, all about the South. Fun read and nice insight into Southern culture and Witherspoon in general. Really enjoyed.

Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwauachi with Joshua David Stein
Part memoir, part cookbook, all awesome. Racism in the kitchen and being true to one’s self and finding your path.

Thick and Other Essays by Tressie McMillam Cottom
Powerful collection of essays on the Black female experience. A bit academic (read: big words and jargon), but that’s who she is – an academic – and she writes that truth.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
So good. Helped me better understand terms I’d cringed at before (intersectionality is a good example) and made me think a lot. I also like how she didn’t only talk about Black people when talking about race.

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City by Matthew Desmond
Super interesting look into how poverty and landlords and renting and eviction all tie together to keep people in the shit. Conversation-evoking.

Book Review: The Botany of Desire

I first read Michael Pollan this past year when I picked up The Omnivore’s Dilemna. It was a book both Brandon and I had been thinking of reading and then watching “Food, Inc.” just solidified our desire to read it.

The Omnivore’s Dilemna was awesome … and I may read it again just so I can review it here. However, this isn’t going to be about that. It’s going to be about another tome of Pollan’s, The Botany of Desire.

Brandon checked out The Botany of Desire from the library and I stole it from him because it sounded interesting. Take the synopsis from the back of the book:

Every schoolchild learns about the mutually beneficial dance of honeybees and flowers: The bee collects nectar and pollen to make honey and, in the process, spreads the flowers’ genes far and wide. In The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan ingeniously demonstrates how people and domesticated plants have formed a similarly reciprocal relationship. He masterfully links four fundamental human desires – sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control – with the plants that satisfy them: the apple, the tulip, marijuana, and the potato. In telling the stories of four familiar species, Pollan illustrates how the plants have evolved to satisfy humankind’s most basic yearnings. And just as we’ve benefited from these plants, the plants have also benefited at least as much from their association with us. So who is really domesticating whom?

As with The Omnivore’s Dilemna, I really enjoyed The Botany of Desire. I adore Pollan’s writing style, particularly his knack of turning a phrase.

My two favorites:
“Sweaty, vegetal, and sulfurous, the place might have been a locker room in the Amazon.”
“… equally disreputable tomato.”

The last one mostly because I love tomatoes and thinking of them as disreputable amuses me highly.

If you want to know about corn sex, go read The Omnivore’s Dilemna. However, if you want to learn any of the following, go pick up The Botany of Desire. Now. For it contains:

– the history of the apple
– the TRUE story of Johnny Appleseed (far cry from the Disney cartoon of yore)
– why tulips became so damned popular
– the answer if you ever actually truly wanted to know what a meme was or how it came about
– the effects psychoactive plants may have had on culture/history of religions/etc.
– how forgetfulness may actually be a *good* thing
– more on how now, after I’ve read The Omnivore’s Dilemna and seen “Food, Inc.”, any time I see or hear “Monsanto Corp.”, I want to stab something (like hearing how if he wanted to replant his super-special potato sample, he’d be breaking federal law
– why mashed potatoes are all a body needs to survive
– how potatoes were once vastly inferior to wheat
– and so much more

I’m typically a fiction girl (I blame reading too damn much boring non-fiction in college), but I’m really starting to like non-fiction books as they relate to food … particularly if there’s a bit of history involved (marginal history nerd). The Botany of Desire is one such book.