Delicious! – Ruth Reichl

A LibraryThing EarlyReviewers book.

Billie has landed her ideal job – assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine.   In no time flat, she’s installed in New York, meeting the absolutely fascinating cast of characters that work at the magazine as well as some of the interesting food sites in the city.

But as quickly as this wonderful opportunity arrives, it’s quickly dashed, as Delicious! is closed.     Billie is kept on, as she was in charge of responding to inquires about the Delicious! guarantee, and the publisher isn’t ready to let that go.      Now by herself in the mansion that an entire magazine’s staff once inhabited, she finds a secret room in the old library, filled with letters from subscribers.     In those letters are some written by a girl named Lulu to James Beard during WWII.     Billie is fascinated by Lulu’s story, and finding her letters among the others in the secret room becomes a bit of an obsession.

This is Ruth Reichl’s first novel.     I’ve read and loved several of her food-writing memoirs, and the wonderful way she writes about food comes through just fine in fiction form.    (Doesn’t hurt that it’s set in an alternate universe version of Gourmet.)    I’d have to characterize the book basically as chick lit, but it’s the kind of well written chick lit I enjoy as a counterpoint to my genre reading.     I’ll happily read more if she decides to keep exploring fiction.

Zealot – Reza Aslan

I really enjoyed this book – it’s a look at Jesus of Nazareth the man, not Jesus the Son of God.   The author gives a great deal of background of what was going on with the Jews being part of the Roman Empire at the time Jesus lived, which informs a great deal of why events went down the way they did in that time period.     (Seriously, this has to be the longest Notes section I’ve ever seen in a nonfiction book.    If you can say absolutely nothing else about this book, you have to admit it was well researched.)

I doubt there’s anything particularly new or earth shattering in here for any religious scholars, but speaking as a lapsed Catholic who’s mostly only read about other religions in a scholarly sense; it was very interesting to me to see all of this historical detail pulled into one place.    I definitely had read about parts of this larger picture before, but I do feel like I have a better picture of the historical Jesus, as well as the formation of the early church, after reading this book.

Celtic Myth and Religion – Sharon Paice Macleod

A LibraryThing Early Reviewers Book.

This book is a good overview of the various mythologies and beliefs of the Celtic world. It touches on the old gods and goddesses, folk traditions, the roots of the Arthurian legends, and some interesting ideas about shamanistic practices. It’s got a more scholarly than new –agey tone to it (a definite pitfall of some Celtic-themed books).

Since it really is mainly an overview, I did come away wanting more, but one of the appendices is Suggested Reading and Further Study, and the Bibliography is enormous, so I’m looking forward to exploring more from both those lists.

No god but God – Reza Aslan

0812971892-01-_sx142_sy224_sclzzzzzzz_I picked this book up because I’d seen an interview with the author on the Daily Show. It was an interesting interview, and he seemed very articulate and knowledgeable, and since this seems to be my year to learn about Islam, I short listed this to the top of my Amazon wishlist.

The book is a concise history of Islam, and includes descriptions of the Shia and Sufi traditions. I liked that this book talked about contemporary Islam. Most of my prior reading has been in a historical context, so it was very interesting to read about the various ways Islam is practiced today. It was also interesting to read about the various ways it is factored into national governments in the Middle East.

The author is himself a Muslim, but wrote this book from an objective, scholarly viewpoint that moved the book along well. I’ve come away from this book with a new appreciation for the nuances of the Islamic world, and a fresh appreciation of exactly what is happening in the Middle East today.