22 December 2008

Books That Mess With Your Head

It's been pretty good reading here lately - if I continue plugging away over the next two weeks, I might actually get the 50 Book Challenge completed this year. But the book I just finished and the one I'm currently reading at home aren't light writing in any sense of the word - I might just need to find something in the style of John Grisham or Tom Clancy to finish out the year, as these last two have really been messing with my head.

came highly recommended by just about anyone who reads good books. It's the story of Cal Stephanides, who was once Calliope Stephanides, and how that happened. But it's also a story of immigration, assimilation, Detroit and other conflicts which revolve around identity. It was painful reading at times; what can you say about a person who calls his brother "Chapter Eleven?" But there is also great love; Chapter Eleven is the quickest to renew the relationship after Calliope became Cal. It's a funny, endearing, challenging book that I enjoyed quite a lot.

The Omnivore's Dilemma
is not a book I like, per se; it is a book that I'm experiencing more than I am reading. I'm only about halfway through, and I'm already finding myself rocked by a punch coming off of nearly every single page. Here's just a sampling of the thoughts I've had since beginning this book:
  • Oh, shit! I'm never eating THAT again!
  • You know, most municipalities allow a certain number of laying hens per household - I bet we could raise our own chickens and eat their eggs, right?
  • Dad should read this book.
  • Dad should NEVER read this book.
  • I'll never shop at Hy-Vee again (insert Piggly Wiggly, Publix, Albertson's, whatever mega-food-mart your locality might include).
  • When am I going to find the time to cook all our meals from scratch, since I don't want to eat all those frigging preservatives?
Like I said, this is a book that definitely raises a LOT of questions, especially for people with farming in their blood (hence the "Dad should/should NEVER read this book." thoughts). But that's what good literature can and should do: when we are challenged by what we read, we learn better what kind of people we are, and perhaps more importantly, what kind of people we yearn to be. We're not going to start raising chickens (I don't think for a second that Kris would go for that), but will The Omnivore's Dilemma change how I look at food? It already has - and maybe that was the point.


  1. They do mess with your head. I liked Middlesex by the end though it threw me for a loop along the way.

    Omnivore's Dilemma on the other hand fell into the very few books that I got from the library, didn't finish and didn't renew. I decided I was already too neurotic enough to justify finishing it and making myself crazier. I preferred Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver to get a similar message without the doom and gloom.

    P.S. My word verification at this moment is "asholes" LOL

  2. I second the recommendation for "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," a book that helped change our household food procurement in a proactive way.

  3. I actually debated TOD or AVM at Borders - they were both on the "buy one, get one free" table where I found my Dad's Christmas present (The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett). I'm sure I'll get to AVM soon, too. Wasn't she on Speaking of Faith right after the book was published?

  4. I haven't read either of these books: but now I'm putting AVM on my life, and probably Middlesex, too.

    I didn't get those 50 books read (I heard it was 60, but I like 50 better!)

    Some books DO mess with your head, don't they?