Monday, March 30, 2009

California reading list

Five years on, I'm still traumatised by the memory of an eight hour delay at Cochin airport with no reading material, not even a newspaper. My idea of hell is not having anything to read. I have no internal resources, no desire to be left alone with my thoughts. They scream at me all the time as it is; I need books to drown them out.

As I will be on my own in California, with the voices screaming away, I'm going to need a ready supply of reading material. I'm not trusting to the availability of good bookshops when I need them: Miami scarred me for life a few years back when I discovered there wasn't a single bookstore in South Beach (bar a New Age one, which does not count), the day before my flight and had to drive an hour round trip to a mall to ensure that I wasn't reliant on the airport newsstand.

I've saved up the last month of my New Yorker subscription for starters, which will provide my fall back position in case of literary emergency, but am relying on the following books to keep me occupied for the first fortnight or so. As you can see, I'm all about American authors these days:

Perfection Salad: Women and Cooking at the Turn of the Century by Laura Shapiro
"The book chronicles the ways in which an impulse to liberate women from the drudgery and imprecision of daily food preparation led to its debasement." I probably read more books about food & cookery than any others and, since my move to New York and ready access to the extraordinary food section at Strand Books, have been obsessed with immersing myself in American culinary history.

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
Been meaning to read this for ages: I suspect I'll need some humour to divert me on this trip.

Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritan
ce by Barack Obama.
This has been sitting on my bookshelf for two years. I must read this.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
Required reading for anyone who cares about the food industry, this will be a re-read as I think it bears a second go-round.

Cannery Row by John Steinbeck
I like to try to read books set in the places to which I travel, and I will passing through Monterey on my way to San Francisco.

Speaking of which, any good suggestions for books about, or set in California will be gratefully received. Of course, I've read everything by Armistead Maupin: I worked on a newspaper in San Francisco for four months during a university vacation and gobbled up all the Tales of the City, enjoying them all the more for living just a few blocks from Mrs Madrigal's imaginary home.

I've also just read Whacked by Jules Asner, a modern anti-morality tale set in present day Los Angeles, but didn't enjoy the preposterous plot & unappealing heroine too much.

So: more suggestions, please.