Finished: Early February
One of my favorite things I did in February was attend The Unchained Tour, a storytelling troupe traveling to local bookstores across the South. It was something Jordan and I did on whim, so I didn't do any research to find out who we'd be listening to that night. Imagine my surprise, then, when Elna Baker -- whose book I had purchased just days before -- took the stage. I sat in awe. The girl can tell a story, no doubt about it, and the good news is: She can write a good story too. The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance was funny and poignant, hilarious and bittersweet. The memoir covers Elna's time living in New York City as a 20-something, attempting to make sense of her life as single Mormon in the big city. While I don't believe Elna is a practicing Mormon any longer, I felt like she addressed the topic of faith with respect; she lets readers into a pretty private and personal part of her life, and she does so with grace and ease. The book offers an honest critique of her faith, and I loved that she still so obviously respects what her relationship with God has taught her and how it has made a lasting impact on her life and character. Elna's training is as a stand-up comic -- you can Google around and find some pretty funny videos -- so The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance is full of sarcasm and wit; it was easily my favorite book this month.
Finished: Late February
Season to Taste arrived in my mailbox last week as a birthday gift from a friend, and I was eager to dive right in. I've been hearing about Molly Birnbaum's book for a while now, and although her memoir wasn't exactly what I was expecting, it wound up being -- if nothing else -- a really educational read. Season to Taste begins with Birnbaum's work at a Boston restaurant, trying to gain real-world experience before she heads off to the Culinary Institute of American. Her life changes in an instant, though, when she finds herself in the hospital after a car accident, unable to smell. Readers looking for a book about food and cooking may leave Season to Taste disappointed, since most of the book is actually devoted to the science of the nose. It's apparent Birnbaum has done ample research on the topic, and at times, Season to Taste reads a bit like a textbook (albeit an interesting one). I found myself wondering often what it would be like to live without scent -- not pleasant, as Birnbaum demonstrates -- and I know far more about olfaction than I ever did before. Birnbaum does a wonderful job of describing scents and sights and sounds, and she manages to make even the most techincal parts of the book intelligible to the average person. That being said, I went into Season to Taste hoping for a food memoir, and I was left a little disappointed. The ending felt rushed, and I found myself wanting to know more about Birnbaum's overall story and less about her nose. Still, Season to Taste is probably worth reading, particularly if you have a keen sense of smell that needs appreciating.