When Max and I were in Portland last weekend, of course we had to go to Powell's. (Twice, actually.) I bought…
Catfight: Rivalries Among Women--From Diets to Dating, from the Boardroom to the Delivery Room, by Leora Tanenbaum. "Catfight is a remarkably researched and insightful foray into the American woman's world of aggression, rivalry, and competition."
I've read this one already and it's interesting. Tanenbaum mixes stories of her personal experience with research and so it's easy to read and yet thought-provoking. It's odd, though - I would have thought I was a competitive sort, yet I actually don't engage in many of the behaviors described in this book. Maybe I work out all my anxieties putting chopsticks on other women's labia. Hmmn, perhaps I should start some kind of highly-specialized corporate-training firm.
The Book of Absinthe: A Cultural History, by Phil Baker "Opening with the sensational 1905 Absinthe Murders, Phil Baker offers a cultural history of absinthe, from its modest origins as an herbal tonic through its luxuriantly morbid heyday in the late nineteenth century."
I just started this. It's a bit slow so far, but I'll keep going. I'm thinking perhaps it's time for Roman and I to have another experience with The Green Fairy.
Call of The Mall: The Geography of Shopping, by Paco Underhill. "As a follow-up to the bestseller Why We Buy, he has written an arch entertaining ethnography of the shopping mall. It's about the shopping mall as an exemplar of our commercial and social culture."
I read "Why We Buy" and loved it. This one isn't quite as entertaining, but Underhill is definitely a sharp observer of the culture of shopping.
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress: Tales of Growing Up Groovy But Clueless, by Susan Jane Gilman. "Gilman's latest is an acerbic, often side-splitting memoir that chronicles her bohemian youth in New York City's Upper West Side and her first years of adult life. Gilman's wisecracking, raw narrative about universal experiences--defeating bullies, weathering parental divorce, trying to find meaningful work--is reminiscent of David Sedaris' writing and will draw a similarly wide audience."
I actually bought this book mainly because it's the kind of book I never buy. I like memoirs, but I dislike the "totally hip, yet somehow depressed" tone of voice that finds its perfect outlet in much of Sedaris' writing. But since I am doing a certain amount of essay-style memoir-writing myself, I want to try reading as wide a variety of other people's as possible. So we'll see if I agree with the rapturous reviewers.
The Color Of Death, by Bruce Alexander "Sir John Fielding, a blind 18th-century London judge, is back in his Bow Street offices along with his young assistant Jeremy in this seventh installment in Bruce Alexander's well-crafted, intricately plotted historical crime series."
Fluffy paperback fiction. I'm a sucker for mysteries where people are named Sir Something and write with feathers.
Tobacco: A Cultural History of How An Exotic Plant Seduced Civilization, by Iain Gately. "Gately's Tobacco is a sweeping cultural history of the world's most prevalent addiction, and it's probably the best book ever written on its subject."
Haven't started it yet, but it's exactly the kind of thing I like. I'm actually looking for a good book about the history of opium and opium addiction in nineteenth-century England, to include when it started being synthesized into morphine.
The Serpent and The Moon: Two Rivals For The Love Of A Renaissance King, by Her Royal Highness Princess Michael of Kent. "Set against the stunning backdrop of Renaissance France and peopled by the titans of European history, The Serpent and the Moon is a true story of love, war, intrigue, betrayal, and persecution. At its heart is one of the world's great love stories: the life-long devotion of King Henri II of France to Diane de Poitiers, a beautiful aristocrat who was nineteen years older than her lover."
Sixteenth century France isn't my favorite era or place, but still, this looks good. And apparently written by a gen-u-ine princess. I hope that doesn't mean her writing sucks.
Mistress of The Elgin Marbles: A Biography of Mary Nisbet, Countess of Elgin, by Susan Nagel. "Filled with romance, danger, and scandal, Mistress of the Elgin Marbles is the intriguing story of Mary Nisbet, the Countess of Elgin -- one of the most influential women of the Romantic era whose exploits enriched world culture immeasurably."
1800's England, my favorite. I'm saving this one 'til I have a quiet night, so I can just go right through it.
I had to sternly restrain myself not to buy more, and we actually didn't get to Portland's other great bookstore, the alt/porn bookstore Countermedia. That's a shame, but in some ways just as well, because I always spend way too much money there.
I think I'll start a Powell's wish list - I don't think Amazon is inherently evil, as I usually buy used books through them, and can thus feel good about supporting a small businessperson. But I do think independent bookstores are an important social institution that we should support.
Plus, I love having big stacks of unread books by my side of the bed.