Library Loot (16 December 2010)

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library.

Ah I love the library when it just opens. It’s quiet, and relatively empty. And quiet (my neighbour’s doing some work in his backyard today and there are all kinds of noises emerging from there). Anyway, two holds to pick up and plenty more to check out from the shelves, as usual!

The Bread Bible – Rose Levy Beranbaum
My sister’s asked me to pick my own Christmas present, so I’m doing my research by borrowing this one. So far, a quick browse looks extremely promising!

The new baking masterwork from the author of The Cake Bible and The Pie and Pastry Bible.

The Bread Bible gives bread bakers 150 of the meticulous, foolproof recipes that are Rose Levy Beranbaum’s trademark. Her knowledge of the chemistry of baking, the accessibility of her recipes, and the incomparable taste of her creations make this book invaluable for home cooks and professional bakers alike.

Recipes include bread made with yeast starters, quick breads, flatbreads, brioche, and much more. From ciabatta, semolina, rye, and sourdough breads to bagels, biscuits, crumpets, and pizza dough, The Bread Bible covers all the baking bases.

“Understanding” and “Pointers for Success” sections explain in simple, readable language the importance of various techniques and ingredients demonstrated in a recipe, providing a complete education in the art of baking, with thorough sections on types of flour, equipment, and other essentials. Easy-to-use ingredient tables provide both volume and weight, for surefire recipes that work perfectly every time. 225 line drawings and 32 pages of color illustrations.

Confections of a Closet Master Baker: One Woman’s Sweet Journey from Unhappy Hollywood Executive to Contented Country Baker – Gesine Bullock-Prado
This was a couple of shelves below the Bread Bible. Point goes to Andi for this one.

A former Hollywood insider trades the Hollywood Hills for Green Acres—and lives to tell about it in this hilarious, poignant treat of a memoir.

As head of her celebrity sister’s production company, Gesine Bullock-Prado had a closet full of designer clothes and the ear of all the influential studio heads, but she was miserable. The only solace she found was in her secret hobby: baking. With every sugary, buttery confection to emerge from her oven, Gesine took one step away from her glittery, empty existence—and one step closer to her true destiny. Before long, she and her husband left the trappings of their Hollywood lifestyle behind, ending up in Vermont, where they started the gem known as Gesine Confectionary. And they never looked back. Confections of a Closet Master Baker follows Gesine’s journey from sugar-obsessed child to miserable, awkward Hollywood insider to reluctant master baker. Chock-full of eccentric characters, beautifully detailed descriptions of her baking process, ceaselessly funny renditions of Hollywood nonsense, and recipes, the ingredients of her story will appeal to anyone who has ever considered leaving the life they know and completely starting over.

Origins: How the Nine Months Before Birth Shape the Rest of Our Lives – Annie Murphy Paul
I kinda wonder if I should be reading this now, or if it would freak me out.

What makes us the way we are? Some say it’s the genes we inherit at conception. Others are sure it’s the environment we experience in childhood. But could it be that many of our individual characteristics—our health, our intelligence, our temperaments—are influenced by the conditions we encountered before birth?That’s the claim of an exciting and provocative field known as fetal origins. Over the past twenty years, scientists have been developing a radically new understanding of our very earliest experiences and how they exert lasting effects on us from infancy well into adulthood. Their research offers a bold new view of pregnancy as a crucial staging ground for our health, ability, and well-being throughout life.Author and journalist Annie Murphy Paul ventures into the laboratories of fetal researchers, interviews experts from around the world, and delves into the rich history of ideas about how we’re shaped before birth. She discovers dramatic stories: how individuals gestated during the Nazi siege of Holland in World War II are still feeling its consequences decades later; how pregnant women who experienced the 9/11 attacks passed their trauma on to their offspring in the womb; how a lab accident led to the discovery of a common household chemical that can harm the developing fetus; how the study of a century-old flu pandemic reveals the high personal and societal costs of poor prenatal experience. Origins also brings to light astonishing scientific findings: how a single exposure to an environmental toxin may produce damage that is passed on to multiple generations; how conditions as varied as diabetes, heart disease, and mental illness may get their start in utero; why the womb is medicine’s latest target for the promotion of lifelong health, from preventing cancer to reducing obesity. The fetus is not an inert being, but an active and dynamic creature, responding and adapting as it readies itself for life in the particular world it will enter. The pregnant woman is not merely a source of potential harm to her fetus, as she is so often reminded, but a source of influence on her future child that is far more powerful and positive than we ever knew. And pregnancy is not a nine-month wait for the big event of birth, but a momentous period unto itself, a cradle of individual strength and wellness and a crucible of public health and social equality.

With the intimacy of a personal memoir and the sweep of a scientific revolution, Origins presents a stunning new vision of our beginnings that will change the way you think about yourself, your children, and human nature itself.

Black Swan Green: A Novel – David Mitchell
It’s been too long since I’ve read Mitchell’s work.

From award-winning writer David Mitchell comes a sinewy, meditative novel of boyhood on the cusp of adulthood and the old on the cusp of the new.
Black Swan tracks a single year in what is, for thirteen-year-old Jason Taylor, the sleepiest village in muddiest Worcestershire in a dying Cold War England, 1982. But the thirteen chapters, each a short story in its own right, create an exquisitely observed world that is anything but sleepy. A world of Kissingeresque realpolitik enacted in boys’ games on a frozen lake; of “nightcreeping” through the summer backyards of strangers; of the tabloid-fueled thrills of the Falklands War and its human toll; of the cruel, luscious Dawn Madden and her power-hungry boyfriend, Ross Wilcox; of a certain Madame Eva van Outryve de Crommelynck, an elderly bohemian emigré who is both more and less than she appears; of Jason’s search to replace his dead grandfather’s irreplaceable smashed watch before the crime is discovered; of first cigarettes, first kisses, first Duran Duran Lps, and first deaths; of Margaret Thatcher’s recession; of Gypsies camping in the woods and the hysteria they inspire; and, even closer to home, of a slow-motion divorce in four seasons.
Pointed, funny, profound, left-field, elegiac, and painted with the stuff of life, Black Swan Green is David Mitchell’s subtlest and most effective achievement to date.

Falling Angels – Barbara Gowdy
I was hoping to pick up something by Barbara Gowdy, and this was the only book of hers on the shelves. Point goes to Buried in Print for this one!

The three daughters of the Field family, aged 17 to 19 are bound together by the love and protection of their fragile alcoholic mother and fear of their abusive father. In a family on the brink of madness, they learn to survive in a dangerously psychotic environment. First published in 1990, Falling Angels is a gripping portrait of a family in trouble, by the author of the highly acclaimed Mister Sandman.

Gun, with Occasional Music – Jonathan Lethem
Don’t you just love the cover? I read Motherless Brooklyn quite a few years ago and Fortress of Solitude. I remember loving Motherless Brooklyn but perhaps was less enamoured with Fortress – maybe that’s why I didn’t pick up Lethem since? Anyway, this was fueled by my browsing of the The Reader’s Guide to Contemporary Authors, which I had out last Library Loot (and which also had a nice writeup of Barbara Gowdy, so I guess point goes to them too).

Gumshoe Conrad Metcalf has problems-there’s a rabbit in his waiting room and a trigger-happy kangaroo on his tail. Near-future Oakland is a brave new world where evolved animals are members of society, the police monitor citizens by their karma levels, and mind-numbing drugs such as Forgettol and Acceptol are all the rage.
Metcalf has been shadowing Celeste, the wife of an affluent doctor. Perhaps he’s falling a little in love with her at the same time. When the doctor turns up dead, our amiable investigator finds himself caught in a crossfire between the boys from the Inquisitor’s Office and gangsters who operate out of the back room of a bar called the Fickle Muse.
Mixing elements of sci-fi, noir, and mystery, this clever first novel from the author of Motherless Brooklyn is a wry, funny, and satiric look at all that the future may hold.

Invitation to the Waltz
And last but not least, my first ever hold from Link+, which allows me to request books from participating libraries in California and Nevada (it’s a free service but with heft late fines of $1 a day). I added this to my TBR list after it was mentioned in Mrs Woolf and the Servants.

A diary for her innermost thoughts, a china ornament, a ten-shilling note, and a roll of flame-coloured silk for her first evening dress—these are the gifts Olivia Curtis receives for her 17th birthday. She anticipates her first dance, the greatest yet most terrifying event of her restricted social life, with tremulous uncertainty and excitement. For her pretty, charming elder sister Kate, the dance is certain to be a triumph, but what will it be for shy, awkward Olivia? Exploring the daydreams and miseries attendant upon even the most innocent of social events, Rosamond Lehmann perfectly captures the emotions of a girl standing poised on the threshold of womanhood.

Tales of the Vampires (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) – Joss Whedon et al
Oops forgot I had also borrowed this graphic novel. I had a great time with Tales of the Slayers, and like that one, this is a collection of stories written by Buffy creator Whedon and others, and with a nice variety of illustrations too. Of course, the focus is now on the vampires.

Tales of the Vampires presents stories ranging from medieval times to the Depression to today, all intricately woven around Joss Whedon’s central story about a group of young Watchers in training. Not to be missed is Buffy’s rematch with Dracula and Angel’s ongoing battle with his own demons. Wrapped in a haunting cover by Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, these diverse tales flesh out the history and the world of Joss Whedon’s unforgettable creations and fill the void left by the Buffy TV show better than any other writers ever could.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?


  1. Great haul! Bread baking is something I would love to be able to do. But without a mixer I feel it’s too daunting!
    I’ve seen Confections of a Closet Master Baker somewhere else. It sounds like a great read.
    Enjoy your loot!


  2. A varied selection! Confections of a Closet Master Baker looks intriguing, as does the bread book (though I’m not sure I’ll still be intrigued after spending the entire weekend in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies). I read Invitation to the Waltz earlier this year – not a great success with me, I’m afraid, but still interesting.

    Enjoy your loot!


    1. Thanks, Claire. I ended up making some sugar cookies and gingerbread cookies last week too. But I still just adore the smell (and taste of course) of freshly baked bread, so I’m dying to try out a recipe or two from The Bread Bible!


  3. At some point, I want to read one of David Mitchell’s books. The book cover for Lethem is great! What is the picture at the end of your post? Is that from Buffy?


  4. Oh, are there points?! Maybe I should try harder! ::laughs:: Though I do think you’d appreciate Barbara Gowdy. What she does with the father character in this novel is remarkable; it gives a hint of the way in which she pulls the reader into very uncomfortable places and forces you to enlarge your understanding of compassion, all its limitations and possibilities. It made me squirmy. But in a good way. I hope you find it worthwhile.


    1. I wasn’t entirely sure about the book when I first picked it up and scanned the first page. Plus I kinda wanted to read the one with the elephants! I’m still stuck in a couple of books, and will try to get to Gowdy soon. I hope!


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