Down the TBR Hole (Week 4)

Week 4! Whew! This is a popular tag, so I thought I’d give it a shot! If you’re like me, your TBR list is so long that you’ll never get through them all. Here are 5 books on my TBR list. Have you read any of them? Are any of my keeps worth bumping to the top of my TBR list? Let me know!

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1. The School of Essential Ingredients 
by Erica Bauermeister
Publish Date: January 22, 2009
# of Pages: 240
Goodreads Rating: 3.78

Description (from Goodreads): Reminiscent of Chocolat and Like Water for Chocolate, a gorgeously written novel about life, love, and the magic of food.

The School of Essential Ingredients follows the lives of eight students who gather in Lillian’s Restaurant every Monday night for cooking class. It soon becomes clear, however, that each one seeks a recipe for something beyond the kitchen.

Students include Claire, a young mother struggling with the demands of her family; Antonia, an Italian kitchen designer learning to adapt to life in America; and Tom, a widower mourning the loss of his wife to breast cancer. Chef Lillian, a woman whose connection with food is both soulful and exacting, helps them to create dishes whose flavor and techniques expand beyond the restaurant and into the secret corners of her students’ lives.

One by one the students are transformed by the aromas, flavors, and textures of Lillian’s food, including a white-on-white cake that prompts wistful reflections on the sweet fragility of love and a peppery heirloom tomato sauce that seems to spark one romance but end another. Brought together by the power of food and companionship, the lives of the characters mingle and intertwine, united by the revealing nature of what can be created in the kitchen.

Why is this book on my TBR list?: I love food, and a lot of my Goodreads friends have read it. Reading through the description again though, it doesn’t seem like a must-read.

Verdict: Gone


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2. Prayers for Sale
by Sandra Dallas
Publish Date: April 14, 2009
# of Pages: 305
Goodreads Rating: 3.83

Description (from Goodreads): Hennie Comfort is eighty-six and has lived in the mountains of Middle Swan, Colorado since before it was Colorado. Nit Spindle is just seventeen and newly married. She and her husband have just moved to the high country in search of work. It’s 1936 and the depression has ravaged the country and Nit and her husband have suffered greatly. Hennie notices the young woman loitering near the old sign outside of her house that promises “Prayers For Sale”.

Hennie doesn’t sell prayers, never has, but there’s something about the young woman that she’s drawn to. The harsh conditions of life that each have endured create an instant bond and an unlikely friendship is formed, one in which the deepest of hardships are shared and the darkest of secrets are confessed.

Sandra Dallas has created an unforgettable tale of a friendship between two women, one with surprising twists and turns, and one that is ultimately a revelation of the finest parts of the human spirit.

Why is this book on my TBR list?: This is a book I added because it sounds very sweet. I’d still like to read this one at some point.

Verdict: Keep


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3. The Day the Falls Stood Still
 by Cathy Marie Buchanan
Publish Date: August 25, 2009
# of Pages: 307
Goodreads Rating: 3.68

Description (from Goodreads): Tom Cole, the grandson of a legendary local hero, has inherited an uncanny knack for reading the Niagara River’s whims and performing daring feats of rescue at the mighty falls. And like the tumultuous meeting of the cataract’s waters with the rocks below, a chance encounter between Tom and 17-year-old Bess Heath has an explosive effect. When they first meet on a trolley platform, Bess immediately recognizes the chemistry between them, and the feeling is mutual.

But the hopes of young love are constrained by the 1915 conventions of Niagara Falls, Ontario. Tom’s working-class pedigree doesn’t suit Bess’s family, despite their recent fall from grace. Sacked from his position at a hydroelectric power company, Bess’s father has taken to drink, forcing her mother to take in sewing for the society women who were once her peers. Bess pitches in as she pines for Tom, but at her young age, she’s unable to fully realize how drastically her world is about to change.

Set against the resounding backdrop of the falls, Cathy Marie Buchanan’s carefully researched, capaciously imagined debut novel entwines the romantic trials of a young couple with the historical drama of the exploitation of the river’s natural resources. The current of the river, like that of the human heart, is under threat: “Sometimes it seems like the river is being made into this measly thing,” says Tom, bemoaning the shortsighted schemes of the power companies. “The river’s been bound up with cables and concrete and steel, like a turkey at Christmastime.”

Skillfully portraying individuals, families, a community, and an environment imperiled by progress and the devastations of the Great War, The Day the Falls Stood Still beautifully evokes the wild wonder of its setting, a wonder that always overcomes any attempt to tame it. But at the same time, Buchanan’s tale never loses hold of the gripping emotions of Tom and Bess’s intimate drama. The result is a transporting novel that captures both the majesty of nature and the mystery of love.

Why is this book on my TBR list?: Goodness, I don’t even remember adding this book to my TBR shelf! That’s a sure sign my TBR shelf needs cleaned out, right? This book is gone.

Verdict: Gone


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4. The Gift of an Ordinary Day
 by Katrina Kenison
Publish Date: September 7, 2009
# of Pages: 320
Goodreads Rating: 3.76

Description (from Goodreads):
The Gift of an Ordinary Day is an intimate memoir of a family in transition-boys becoming teenagers, careers ending and new ones opening up, an attempt to find a deeper sense of place, and a slower pace, in a small New England town. It is a story of mid-life longings and discoveries, of lessons learned in the search for home and a new sense of purpose, and the bittersweet intensity of life with teenagers–holding on, letting go.

Poised on the threshold between family life as she’s always known it and her older son’s departure for college, Kenison is surprised to find that the times she treasures most are the ordinary, unremarkable moments of everyday life, the very moments that she once took for granted, or rushed right through without noticing at all.

The relationships, hopes, and dreams that Kenison illuminates will touch women’s hearts, and her words will inspire mothers everywhere as they try to make peace with the inevitable changes in store.

Why is this book on my TBR list?: I added this book when I was a new mother. While it still sounds like a sweet book, I think there are other books I’d rather read.

Verdict: Gone


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5. An Altar in the World 
by Barbara Brown Taylor
Publish Date: February 10, 2009
# of Pages: 216
Goodreads Rating: 4.29
Date Added to TBR: October 9, 2011

Description (from Goodreads): In her critically acclaimed Leaving Church (“a beautiful, absorbing memoir.”—Dallas Morning News), Barbara Brown Taylor wrote about leaving full-time ministry to become a professor, a decision that stretched the boundaries of her faith. Now, in her stunning follow-up, An Altar in the World, she shares how she learned to encounter God beyond the walls of any church.

From simple practices such as walking, working, and getting lost to deep meditations on topics like prayer and pronouncing blessings, Taylor reveals concrete ways to discover the sacred in the small things we do and see. Something as ordinary as hanging clothes on a clothesline becomes an act of devotion if we pay attention to what we are doing and take time to attend to the sights, smells, and sounds around us. Making eye contact with the cashier at the grocery store becomes a moment of true human connection. Allowing yourself to get lost leads to new discoveries. Under Taylor’s expert guidance, we come to question conventional distinctions between the sacred and the secular, learning that no physical act is too earthbound or too humble to become a path to the divine. As we incorporate these practices into our daily lives, we begin to discover altars everywhere we go, in nearly everything we do.

Why is this book on my TBR list?: I believe I thought this was more of a history book when I added it. Reading through the description again, I think I’ll pass on it.

Verdict: Gone


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