It’s Monday… & January is Gardening Month!

Yeah, yeah… it’s cold and windy and snowy out here on the East Coast.  Probably not everyone’s idea of perfect gardening weather, but stay with me on this for a minute.   Seed catalogs have started arriving in the mail.  I went out and bought some graph paper to figure out what’s going where.  No weeding needs to be done yet.  Sure no planting either, but we’ve got the glass is half full mentality over here at BookSexy.  And what better way is there to beat the cold than to start planning a Summer vegetable garden?

With that in mind I posted my review of Heirloom: Notes from an Accidental Tomato Farmer last night.  And I’m 43 pages into Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan (2 out of 3  gardeners say they prefer colons over other marks of punctuation).  The authors have radically different writing styles, but both are wonderful reads.

And as for the Seed Savers Exchange Catalog – I’ve been through that at least 5 times.  It’s now got more dog-eared pages than the Christmas edition of the Sears catalog did when I was 10-years old.  Keep your White Christmas, this is what I’m dreaming of…

Tomato, Cream Sausage

Catalog #1314 (a.k.a. Banana Cream) A unique colored variety.  Bred by Thomas Wagner.  Creamy white to light yellow sausage-shaped fruit, very productive bushy plants do not require staking.  Meaty, nice sweet flavor, great for salsa and for a fabulously colored sauce!  Determinate, 80 days.

And don’t forget to visit J. Kaye’s Book Blog to see what everyone else is dreaming about.

Weekly Geeks: Did Somebody Say “Podcast”?

I haven’t participated in a Weekly Geeks for a while – but I couldn’t resist this week’s entitled “Podcasts Anyone?”

My original list of favorite podcasts went up back in April – but since then I’ve discovered a few more to share.  Because, I’ll say it again, the next best thing to reading books is reading about books.  And when that isn’t an option…

The Guardian Books Podcast (with Claire Armitstead) –  This weekly podcast provides an overview of what’s going on in the world of books, authors, literary prizes and festivals on the other side of the pond.  It’s a showcase of all things literary out of the UK and I became completely hooked thanks to their series on the 2009 Hay Festival (a yearly literary festival held at Hay-on-Wye in England).  Festivals aren’t your thing?  The author interviews and book discussions are also well done, informative and entertaining.  The podcasts provides a nice heads up on books yet to be published Stateside.  But there is a dark side…  How so? you ask.  Well, lets just say I’ve discovered first hand the strength of the dollar on amazon.uk.

Start the Week with Andrew Marr –While not ostensibly about books, Marr hosts men and women with different areas expertise – often authors, musicians, filmmakers and other artsy types – in a roundtable discussion.  It’s a lot like finding yourself at a fabulous cocktail party full of interesting people.  There’s no theme and appears to be no logic as to who is chosen for a particular show.  (Case in point, the programme information from this week reads: “Tom Sutcliffe discusses tradition and modernity with musician Nitin Sawhney, drama and wartime plots with writer and director Stephen Poliakoff, progress and conservation with the science historian Harriet Ritvo, and the uses and abuses of scientific ideas with Dennis Sewell”).    Your best course of action, at the party and with the podcast, is to nod knowingly and attempt to laugh at appropriate times.   Added bonus of the podcast:  no need to try to keep up with the witty repertoire.

Book Reviews with Simon Mayo – The Brits  take their reading seriously.  My current fave,  Book Reviews with Simon Mayo features two authors, their books, 3 critics and Simon (or is it 2 critics and Simon?… dam accent).  Everyone, including the authors, have taken the time to read both books and are expected to weigh in with their opinions.  The discussion is in-depth (down to the cover art).  Even better: no one pulls their punches.  That means not all books get a positive review.   But the tone is civil and the critique usually spot on.  These are people who love books and are having a good time discussing what they’ve read.  Rather than attempting to impress each other with their literary prowess.

The Moth PodcastThe Moth is an open mike where people tell true stories, without notes, in front of a live audience.  That’s the intro to the podcast. (Yes, I memorized it. No, I don’t have a life).  If you only have time to download one podcast after reading this post – this is the one.  The stories  range from incredibly funny (the American editor of French Vogue’s haunted apartment in Paris), to harrowing (a girl in her 20’s capture and escape from Congolese rebels), to a combination of the two.  The Moth is proof positive, week after week, that you can’t make this stuff up.

The New York Review of Books (NYRB) –This seems to have become a BBC scewed list.  Thank goodness for my NYRB!  Not to be confused with The New York Times Book Review, the NYRB is a monthly-ish journal that features reviews of fiction & non-fiction titles, as well as articles on current events that may not have made it to prime time.   The podcast ties into the current issue  and provides an in-depth discussion of a single article featured in the print copy.  This is not a re-hashing of the actual article, but a companion piece that often takes the form of an interview with the author.  Listen to the NYRB and if you ever do get invited to that cocktail party at Andrew Marr’s you might have something to add to the conversation.

It’s Monday! What am I reading? The J. Crew Catalog!

J. Crew Catalog

First, here’s the link back to J. Kaye’s meme.

Second, I’m obsessed with the J. Crew Catalog.  And what does that have to do with books?  I’m so glad you asked!

About my obsession…  It started a few months ago.  Not with the first family’s fashion sense, but when Domino Magazine (moment of silence) featured the home of J. Crew’s creative director.  There was something quirky and smart about it that drew me in.  When I saw Lauren Hutton featured in a style shoot I was completely hooked.

Then came the August issue and the two page spread shown above.  J. Crew had (obviously unknowingly, unintentionally & with no prior knowledge of this blog’s existence – can’t accuse me of grandiosity!) bought into why I started BookSexy.  Because I honestly believe (as cheesey as it sounds) that style is something internalized, not just about how you present yourself externally.  Style has to do with ideas and interests and genuine curiosity.  It’s about having something to add to a conversation.  Which is why it makes perfect sense to me that J. Crew featured an obscure Steinbeck novel in with their List of Necessities.  And that their new  Tribeca Men’s Shop sells vintage books like the one featured above along with standard merchandise.  (They also hold celebrity readings at the Soho Shop).

I like this new literary world where the President of the United States’ Summer reading list makes Letterman.

Do I wish they’d looked a little farther afield than Steinbeck?  Well, yes.  Personally I’d have liked to have seen a Michael Chabon novel or something from McSweeney’s.  Maybe even a graphic novel drawn by Dave McKean.  But this is a start.   Don’t forget that J. Crew is still a fashion company.

Even if it’s a fashion company that puts its clothes on Alex Katz.

For a different take, check out this post at wordcandy.net.  And if you have an opinion, I’m interested in hearing it.  Please leave a comment.

The Magic of Podcasts (Redux)

The next best thing to reading a book is reading about books. Fact. But let’s face it: there are only so many hours in the day. Thankfully there are the Podcasts. (Seriously, what is sexier than an Ipod?) I subscribe to a few different ones on a variety of topics. Below are a few of my favorite literary podcasts. Needless to say (we are in a recession) they’re all free to download.

The Penguin Podcast – Beware! There are both British & American versions. My personal favorite is the British and it’s not just because of the nifty accent. Its has been a great source for new books and authors that haven’t yet made the leap across the pond. Luckily, even we Yanks can order from AmazonUK. All the books featured are published by Penguin (and eventually its American affiliates). Additional value comes from good quality production, entertaining readings by the authors and rather catchy music mixes featuring quotes from books in the Penguin library. Average time: 15 minutes per episode, with new episodes about 1-2 times a month (though lately they seem to be updating less).

Slate Audio Book club – Young, terminally hip and bordering on unacceptably smug… this podcast conforms to the Slate brand identity. The NYC group of three usually discusses a book that falls squarely into the critically acclaimed bestseller category. (Lately they’ve been reading a lot of recently deceased authors such as Updike and Wallace). Keep in mind that this is a discussion group, not a reading and not a review, so major plot points are revealed. There’s the added frustration of listening to people express opinions you don’t agree with and can’t respond to. On the plus side, it’s always informative, and a great resource for current fiction and non-fiction. Each episode lasts 1 hour.

World Book Club (The BBC) – I love the BBC (that accent again). This podcast features author interviews done in front of a live audience – doing a quick question and answer with the host and then taking audience, call in and emailed questions from readers. The authors featured are always at the top of their game. Toni Morrison, David Guterson, Iain Banks, Armistead Maupin and Michael Ondaatje are some examples. Overall the podcast is very entertaining, informative, with the added bonus of hearing the audiences’ responses, laughter and applause. Each episode lasts approximately 1 hour.

KCRW Bookworm – This is National Public Radio – kickin’ it OLD SCHOOL! Here is your chance to experience the classic author interview, done by an erudite NPR host. Expect obscure questions and inferences into the text that even the author has trouble following. Marvel at the strange emotional intonations and inappropriate pauses for emphasis as the interviewer goes on lengthy tangents that no one understands. And always expect to be faced with the age old question – who is REALLY the expert on this book? – The author or the NPR host/critic? Bookworm is a weekly radio program (more of an institution) out of California, so scheduling is consistent, shows 1 hour in length, and features a steady stream of relevant & established contemporary authors.

Short Stories (for those awful and unfortunate times when you can’t read):

The New Yorker: Fiction – The podcast features short stories from the archives of the New Yorker. The stories are guaranteed to be well written and well read. The stories are selected and read by a contemporary figure (writers, actors) – and always feature an insightful (or at least interesting) interview as to why the story was chosen. Each episode averages about a ½ hour, and they come out monthly. These are great on headset for doing chores, running errands, walking the dog or commuting to work.

PRI: Selected Shorts – Fabulous reading from members of the American Theater at the NY Symphony Space (broadcast by NY Public Radio). Each episode lasts about 1 hour and consists of a variety of short readings. One program I listened to included a short story by Kate Chopin, Mark Twain, a fairy tale and readings from Capote letters. The readers are equally as impressive, featuring the likes of John Lithgow (my personal favorite). Recommend listening while making dinner.