Before I let things get away from me (again), here are some quick thoughts about some non-fiction books I’ve read in the last month:
I enjoy reading “project” memoirs – that is, books chronicling the author’s attempt to do something over a period of time. In this case, Allyson Reedy chose to not eat at chain restaurants for a year. In America, with the large chains (McDonald’s, Taco Bell, etc), this endeavor would be a challenge enough, but Reedy was fairly strict even with local restaurants; if they had more than four locations she considered them to be a chain. I liked the premise of this project but found I did not like the narrator so much. The project would have been much easier if she made meals at home, but she apparently can’t or won’t cook (and didn’t appear to me to want to try) if her husband wasn’t going to do it for her then they went out. But for the most part I found this to be an interesting book and a project that I could probably undertake on my own.
Stranger in My Own Country: A Jewish Family in Modern Germany by Yascha Mounk
Sort of memoir, sort of history, this book is written by a young German-Jewish man who attempts to explain what it is like to be both German and Jewish in the 21st century given the not too recent history of the Holocaust. Are Jews “untouchable” in present-day Germany or should they be treated as everyone else despite the pockets of anti-Semitism that still exist? Yascha Mounk explores these questions as he figures out what being German and Jewish means for his own identity. I really enjoyed this book and it gave me a lot to think about; if anyone else reads this I would love to discuss it. The author talks about his book on the Vox Tablet podcast.
In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist by Pete Jordan
I was recently in Amsterdam for a few days, and was convinced I was going to be run over on the street by a bicycle before I’d be run over by a car; so when I saw this book not long after I returned I had to read it. Pete Jordan was a student and avid cyclist in the U.S. who moved to Amsterdam to study and learn more about the bicycle culture of Amsterdam. More than being a cheap and effective means of transportation, bicycling has played a huge role in the recent history (late 19th century to present times) of the city and I found these anecdotes and his own experiences of bicycling in the city fascinating. Next time I visit Amsterdam I might just scare up enough courage to cycle around, but even if I don’t I will definitely pay more attention to the bicyclists on the road because they aren’t only just going from place to place.
Thoughts about my recent fiction reads are coming soon.