I just realized that we have not had our book club in a while, and I happen to be in the middle of four terrific books.
The first two are by friends. Julia Scheeres, my former co-worker at Wired News and New York Times best-selling author of the memoir Jesus Land, has a new non-fiction book about Jonestown. It is called A Thousand Lives, and it promises to be one, if not, the foremost “expert” on the topic.
For the book, Julia read over 50,000 pages of FBI documents, interviewed the survivors, family members of victims and authorities at the scene of the mass-murder suicide that claimed the lives of 909 people. She even followed the path of the pastor, Jim Jones, from his childhood in Indiana to the spot in northwestern Guyana where he incited the mass murder-suicide by cyanide. By the way, it is this event on November 18, 1978, that incited use of the term “drinking the kool-aid.”
After Jesus Land, a memoir about Julia’s upbringing in a fundamental Christian household that led to her and her adopted African-American brother being shipped off to the Dominican Republic for Christian reform school, she set out to write a satirical novel about a charismatic preacher in Indiana, which is where Julia hails. It was then that she decided to google Jim Jones, who was also from Indiana, and learned about the existence of the FBI files. A freedom of information request and two years worth of research and writing led to the publication of A Thousand Lives.
“You won’t find the word cult in this book, unless I’m directly citing a source that uses the word,” Julia wrote in her introduction. “My aim here is to help readers understand the reason that people were drawn to Jim Jones and his church, and how so many of them ended up dying in a mass-murder suicide on November 18, 1978. The word cult only discourages intellectual curiosity and empathy. As one survivor told me, nobody joins a cult.
To date, the Jonestown canon has veered between sensational media accounts and narrow academic studies. In this book, I endeavor to tell the Jonestown story on a grander, more human, scale.”
I, for one, can’t wait to finish the book!
Another book I am looking forward to reading is our Katy Farber’s Eat Non-Toxic: A Manual for Busy Parents. The book is a quick read — a 65-page PDF, including pictures — about why you should care about toxins in your food, which foods contain what toxins, and my favorite — healthy and delicious recipes like this one:
Butternut Squash Soup
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 three-pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 2-inch chunks
1 softball-sized sweet Vidalia onion, cut into chunks or rings
1 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
3 1/2 cups stock, divided Salt and pepper
1 or 2 tablespoons cream or unsalted butter (optional)
1.) Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss squash, onion and garlic cloves with 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil; spread on glass baking dish and pour 1 cup stock over the top. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt.
2.) Bake at 350oF for 1 1/2 hours or until fairly soft and a little caramelized- looking; check on the pan every 20 minutes or so and if necessary, add additional liquid to keep it from scorching to the bottom of the pan. Stir once during cooking.
3 .) Add squash, garlic, onion, and any liquid from baking dish into a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add 2 1/2 cups stock and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper to the pot, and cook over medium-low heat for at least 20 minutes.
4.) Purée all ingredients in a blender. Add back to pot, stir in cream or butter and adjust salt and pepper to taste.
source: Seriouseats.com at http://www.seriouseats.com/… soup.html
I have some butternut squash I have yet to use. I am all over this recipe!
Also, on my night table: The Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I just started it, and I am already taken in by the breath-taking views of Mexico. I love the Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and apparently the novel is partly based in Mexico during their time in the early to mid-20th century:
In her most accomplished novel, Barbara Kingsolver takes us on an epic journey from the Mexico City of artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo to the America of Pearl Harbor, FDR, and J. Edgar Hoover. The Lacuna is a poignant story of a man pulled between two nations as they invent their modern identities.
Born in the United States, reared in a series of provisional households in Mexico—from a coastal island jungle to 1930s Mexico City—Harrison Shepherd finds precarious shelter but no sense of home on his thrilling odyssey. Life is whatever he learns from housekeepers who put him to work in the kitchen, errands he runs in the streets, and one fateful day, by mixing plaster for famed Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He discovers a passion for Aztec history and meets the exotic, imperious artist Frida Kahlo, who will become his lifelong friend. When he goes to work for Lev Trotsky, an exiled political leader fighting for his life, Shepherd inadvertently casts his lot with art and revolution, newspaper headlines and howling gossip, and a risk of terrible violence.
I’ve never read anything by Barbara Kingsolver so I am looking forward to this!
Finally, I just finished a (fiction) book by Ann Patchett called State of Wonder. This book was a page-turner! I was so immersed in Patchett’s world in the Amazon that at one point I actually looked it up to make sure it was fiction. I was also having bizarre dreams about it.
The book is about a doctor, Marina Singh, who is a researcher at a pharmaceutical company and ends up going to the Amazon to look into the death of a colleague. She is also encouraged by the company to check on another co-worker — who also happened to be a former professor of hers — on some research of a tribe, in which the women bear children well into their 70s. The company wants to learn their secret to create a reproductive drug in the United States.
The book captured me from the very beginning, starting with the death of the colleague and Dr. Singh having to tell the widow — and mother of three small children — the news. Then the twists and turns the story takes in the Amazon are fascinating and raise all kinds of ethical questions surrounding the ability to reproduce at such an old age, and also the condescension the developed world has towards more primitive cultures. I am looking forward to the discussion at my book club! Have any of you read this book? What did you think?
What is on your night table?