Posts tagged: Beth

Book review: Meatless

By , April 4, 2016

MeatlessMeatless: More Than 200 of the Very Best Vegetarian Recipes

From the kitchens of Martha Stewart Living


I am not generally a fan of Martha Stewart recipes—too fussy and expensive—but this cookbook is amazing.  It has full-page color photos, the recipes are simple and printed on one page (don’t you hate when cookbooks make you turn the page mid-recipe?), and everything I tried was delicious.  You may need to learn a few new techniques (pressing tofu, roasting cherry tomatoes), but it’s worth the very minimal effort.


Here are some favorites:

  • White bean patties with roasted tomatoes, page 44
  • Fried rice, page 86
  • The unusual black bean bowl on page 89
  • Two unbelievably good sandwiches: chipotle avocado (page 237) and tofu with peanut sauce (page 251)




Having Belcourt withdrawal?

By , March 7, 2016

Reeling Through LifeReeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies
by Tara Ison

In this memoir/film class, Ms. Ison reveals how movies shaped her attitudes about life.  Chapters include How to Go Crazy, How to Be Lolita, How to Be a Drunk, and How to Die in Style.  In each essay, the author talks about several films that she saw during her formative years and the life lessons that she gleaned from them.  For instance, How to Die in Style discusses Love Story, Harold and Maude, In Cold Blood, and Thelma & Louise, among others.  Her preteen perspectives on the heavy themes of sex, death, and addiction are especially interesting.  Plus, it will give you a huge list of old movies to revisit while the Belcourt’s closed!




Best Movies of 2015

By , January 4, 2016

Warning: I love documentaries.

The OvernightersThe Overnighters
This actually came out in 2014, but came to Nashville in 2015 as part of the Belcourt’s annual Overlooked/Underplayed series. It’s not often that you find a documentary with a great twist ending.






Also part of Overlooked/Underplayed, this gripping mix of indie drama and sci-fi would be good for fans of Primer.






Red ArmyRed Army
Having zero interest in hockey, I was completely bowled over by how much I loved this documentary about the famous Soviet team from the 1980’s.






While We're YoungWhile We’re Young
Tailor-made for 40-something fans of Noah Baumbach, this is a funny but unsettling portrait of the divide between Generation X and the Millennials.






I Am Big BirdI Am Big Bird
I defy you to stay dry-eyed during this tribute to the life, work, and marriage of puppeteer Caroll Spinney, the man behind Big Bird for over 45 years.






You do not need to be an Amy Winehouse fan to appreciate this heart-rending documentary. The shot of a teenage Winehouse singing happy birthday, by itself, is worth putting this on your holds list. The director Asif Kapadia also directed the magnificent Senna (and no, you don’t need to be a Formula One fan to like that one).




Stanford Prison ExperimentThe Stanford Prison Experiment—This has my vote as the most underrated film of the year. The performances were astonishing, and the storyline was so true to what actually happened that it was almost documentary-like. Not to mention that the subject matter itself is riveting. The cast included Ezra Miller, perhaps best known for his chilling performance in the also underrated We Need to Talk About Kevin.




Finders KeepersFinders Keepers—From the director of The King of Kong comes this implausible-sounding documentary about a man who finds a human foot in a smoker and attempts to profit from it. Yes, that’s the plot summary. The best thing about this movie is the unexpected and poignant ripple effect that this action has on everyone involved.





Thank you to the Belcourt for bringing all of these to Nashville–happy renovating, Belcourt!


Best Books of 2015

By , December 7, 2015

My top 3:

Single, Carefree, MellowSingle, Carefree, Mellow: Stories
by Katherine Heiny

I haven’t been this excited about a short story collection since Courtney Eldridge’s Unkempt.





The Folded ClockThe Folded Clock: A Diary
by Heidi Julavits

I kept reading this and saying happily to myself, “I totally agree!” Not to be hokey, but it was almost like making a new friend.





A Manual for Cleaning WomenA Manual for Cleaning Women: Selected Stories
by Lucia Berlin

This is my #1 pick for this year. Like Jean Stafford, whose Collected Stories won the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction (available through ILL), Berlin takes details from her own life and turns them into amazing art.

Some of my favorites were Point of ViewHer First DetoxTiger BitesEmergency Room Notebook, 1977Unmanageable, and Fool to Cry, as well as Carmen and Mijito, which were gut-wrenching but beautiful.

This also has a great introduction by Lydia Davis, who really gives you an appreciation of the collection before you even get started.

Stunning! Also recommended for fans of Mary Karr.





Book review: Don’t Look Now

By , November 2, 2015

Don't Look NowDon’t Look Now
by Daphne du Maurier

I could read Daphne du Maurier stories for the rest of my life. The title story completely terrified me, even though I’ve read it before and seen the movie! I’m putting du Maurier with Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith in the dread-filled short story hall of fame.

This edition also has an introduction by the wonderful Patrick McGrath, as well as the stories The Birds (very different from the Hitchcock movie based upon it) and The Blue Lenses.

May I also take this opportunity to shower praise upon the New York Review Books Classics imprint?  NYRB Classics brings forgotten treasures back into print, with introductions by perfectly matched contemporary authors, and has led to some of my favorite reading experiences of the past few years:



by John Wyndham, better known for The Midwich Cuckoos and Day of the Triffids, with an introduction by Margaret Atwood.







Cassandra at the WeddingCassandra at the Wedding

about the weekend in which Cassie attempts to sabotage her twin sister’s wedding.







Wish Her Safe at HomeWish Her Safe at Home

a really, really skillful portrayal of a woman slowly going mad.








by Caroline Blackwood, now one of my favorite authors. Also check out her book Great Granny Webster, available through Interlibrary Loan.







As a review on the NYRB website says, “Once you have discovered the series it’s as if you’ve just gained an incredibly well-read friend who consistently lends you obscure yet highly enjoyable books.”



Book review: Home Is Burning

By , October 5, 2015

Home Is Burning

Home Is Burning: A Memoir
by Dan Marshall

This is the most irreverent book I have ever read, and I mean that as a compliment. In it, Dan Marshall tells about the year in his twenties when he moved home to care for his parents as they were both struggling with life-threatening illnesses—his mom with cancer and his dad with ALS.  It will be way too crass and caustic for most people, but for the right audience going through a similar crisis, it could be a lifesaver.

Besides David Sedaris, it also has shades of Patton Oswalt, Sean Wilsey’s Oh the Glory of It All, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

Salon@615: The Bloggess

By , September 7, 2015

Furiously Happy

I first heard of Jenny Lawson, a.k.a. the Bloggess, through her metal chicken Beyoncé back in 2011. Since then, she’s written two memoirs, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy, both of which have the sustained hilarity of a good stand-up comedy routine while also addressing mental health issues with truth and sympathy. In addition, you might want to prepare yourself for a lot of taxidermied animals.

Lawson will be here on September 30 at 6:15 p.m., so put on your best red dress and get to the Main Library! Advance tickets available September 16. More information at

Warning: Lawson’s books are best enjoyed with wine slushies and a mild anxiety disorder.



Book review: The Price of Salt

By , August 3, 2015

The Price of SaltThe Price of Salt: Or Carol
by Patricia Highsmith

The new movie Carol, based on this 1952 novel, premiered to a standing ovation at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival.  As a huge Patricia Highsmith fan, I couldn’t wait to read the semi-autobiographical source material.  Highsmith’s writing style, in general, lends itself well to film adaptations because of her close attention to detail.  With this book in particular, I felt like I could visualize exactly how Todd Haynes would portray the clothing, settings, and other period details (think Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce), and also exactly how Cate Blanchett would play the role of Carol.  This actually enhanced the reading experience rather than detracting from it, particularly in picturing the New York City scenes and the road trip out West.

As you would expect from a Highsmith novel, the action turns suspenseful later in the book.  As you would definitely not expect, the romance is tenderly and emotionally depicted.  The last few pages, especially, pack a big wallop.



Book review: Let Me Tell You

By , July 6, 2015

Let Me Tell YouLet Me Tell You: New Stories, Essays, and Other Writings
by Shirley Jackson

Get ready, everyone—the Shirley Jackson revival is about to begin.  In anticipation of Ruth Franklin’s major biography of Jackson coming out in 2016, Franklin introduces this compilation of short stories, essays, reviews, and family humor pieces (most of which have never been published).

If you’ve never read Jackson before, she’s best known for her short story The Lottery.  If you’re already familiar with her, you’ll see her preoccupations running throughout this collection: everyday magic, loneliness, domestic trials, and the fact that some houses are born bad.  Paranoia is a thrilling example of her short story style, and Mrs. Spencer and the Oberons (my favorite piece in the book) reveals her not-so-hidden misanthropy.  Fans of Life Among the Savages can look forward to an entire section of domestic comedy, and the book wraps up with revelations of where Jackson came up with her story ideas and how she used symbols (“garlic”) in her work.

Jackson has been cited as an influence by Stephen King, Kelly Link, and Donna Tartt, among others.  This collection showcases her wide range, from menace to dry wit.  Place a hold on Let Me Tell You before it comes out next month!


Take some pictures! And print them!

By , July 5, 2015

Talking Pictures

Talking Pictures: Images and Messages Rescued from the Past
by Ransom Riggs

I think it’s a tragedy (I’m not overstating) that most people don’t print out pictures, keep diaries, or write letters anymore. Instead, everyone seems to believe that all of this essential life documentation can be done on Facebook–but what about in the future? How are grandchildren/future biographers going to know anything about anyone?! Don’t get me started. This book is simply a collection of old found photos with captions–handwritten on the back, by the photo-takers–and it totally made my day.



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