Library Loot (5 July 2012)

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.

Ok so the goal for July was to decimate Mount TBR (at least my TBR list on Goodreads). Or chisel away at it at least. But I did have some books on hold previously, which of course decided to all come in at the same time….

Coffinman: The Journal of a Buddhist Mortician – Shinmon Aoki

I’ve been curious about this book for a while, and had put it on my non-fiction reading list (yes, finally getting back to this! About time!).

This story looks at one man’s very personal struggle to engage his Shin Buddhist faith to make sense of his experiences with the dead and dying. Shinmon Aoki is forced by extreme financial circumstances into a job in one of the most despised professions in Japanese society, that of the nokanfu, one who washes and prepares dead bodies for burial. Shunned by family and friends and burdened by his own initial revulsion for his work, Aoki throws himself into the job with a fervor that attracts the attention of the townsfolk and earns him the title of Coffinman. In this spiritual autobiography, Aoki chronicles his progression from repulsion to a gradual realization of the tranquility that accompanies death. He assists the uninitiated in gaining an understanding of the basic principles of Shin Buddhism and its concepts of death and dying. Also included are definitions of key terms and phrases and a bibliography.

Mother Reader: Essential Writings on Motherhood – edited by Moyra Davey

The intersection of motherhood and creative life is explored in these writings on mothering that turn the spotlight from the child to the mother herself. Here, in memoirs, testimonials, diaries, essays, and fiction, mothers describe first-hand the changes brought to their lives by pregnancy, childbirth, and mothering.
Many of the writers articulate difficult and socially unsanctioned maternal anger and ambivalence. In Mother Reader, motherhood is scrutinized for all its painful and illuminating subtleties, and addressed with unconventional wisdom and candor. What emerges is a sense of a community of writers speaking to and about each other out of a common experience, and a compilation of extraordinary literature never before assembled in a single volume.

Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive ScrabblePlayers – Stefan Fatsis

Also off my non-fiction reading list.

Scrabble may be truly called America’s game. But for every group of “living-room players” there is someone who is “at one with the board.” In Word Freak, Stefan Fatsis introduces readers to those few, exploring the underground world of colorful characters for which the Scrabble game is life-playing competitively in tournaments across the country. It is also the story of how the Scrabble game was invented by an unemployed architect during the Great Depression and how it has grown into the hugely successful, challenging, and beloved game it is today. Along the way, Fatsis chronicles his own obsession with the game and his development as a player from novice to expert. More than a book about hardcore Scrabble players, Word Freak is also an examination of notions of brilliance, memory, language, competition, and the mind that celebrates the uncanny creative powers in us all. A Book Sense 76 pick.

52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust – William Alexander

William Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago, in a restaurant, and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Without success. But now he’s going to try again—every week for one year—until he gets it right. He will bake his peasant loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, winnowing, threshing, and milling his own wheat.

Alexander’s often hilarious quest takes our (anti)hero through dangerous back alleys of Morocco, where he bakes his loaf in an ancient communal oven; to Paris, where he enrolls in the cours de boulangerie at the famed École Ritz Escoffier; to a monastery in Normandy, where (his lack of French and faith notwithstanding) he becomes bread baker to the monks; and finally to his own backyard, where he builds a lopsided brick oven and learns that perfection is just a state of mind. Alexander also takes us along on entertaining visits to yeast factories and flour mills, seeks advice from master bread bakers, captures wild yeast to make his own levain, and enters the baking contest at the New York State Fair.

An original take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes every single person on the planet, regardless of culture or society, respond to the aroma of baking bread.

Erm yeah, no loot for wee reader this week! There were just two board books available (guess they hadn’t gotten around to restocking yet), and neither of them seemed interesting.

So what did you get from your library this week?


  1. I really enjoyed Word Freak; there is a documentary too, which I watched after I read the book, so it was particularly interesting to see some of the people on-screen. I picked up a couple of holds today (and, um, two other books – shush) and later this week volume 4 of Locke and Key will be waiting for me (did you know there is a standalone story too?).


    1. What? There’s a standalone story? Must find out more!

      Thanks for letting me know about the documentary. It’ll be quite interesting to actually see some of these characters.


  2. I finally read Bringing Up Bebe (don’t know how to add the accents here!), since you had written about it. IMO, the author started repeating herself somewhat toward the end, but overall I enjoyed the anecdotes… and now I am thinking about how/when to implement “French” parenting with our little girl. Definitely food for thought.


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