Girl in Florence

A Tuscan Texan immersed in Florentine life

reading list winter 2012

My 2012 Fall/Winter reading list


reading list winter 2012

First off – Auguri e Buon Anno Nuovo – Happy New Year everyone!!! I hope you all had a great night and look forward to what 2013 brings :D.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love to read, since I was old enough to hold a book in my hands I was trying to read it. Books cover my house both here in Italy and back in America. Probably I have annoyed many many people throughout the years by choosing to read instead of listening to them. Twice a year or so, I would like to share what I have been reading and I would love to know from you guys the same so I can download some new awesome books.

You can check out my summer reading list here. This time the list is much shorter because I had less time to read due to working 24/7 this fall and winter but I always try to find time to devour a book or two or maybe even three. I enjoy re-reading books, especially epics such as Gone With the Wind or Little Women. Truth be told, I have a weird obsession with books about Chinese history {mostly memoirs and fictional stories}, especially during the time of Mao. I find it really fascinating how a huge country like China could have changed so drastically in a blink of the eye. I find that once you really look deep into the history of a country, especially one with 5,000 years of history, you can understand a little better the why’s and how’s of today. Below is a run-down of the books pictured above. Enjoy and happy reading in 2013!

  • Eating my Words, by Mimi Sheraton. A memoir from a former New York Times food critic during the 1970’s and 1980’s. whose culinary journey opens up the secrets of the food  and restaurant world and unflinching honesty on the part of Mimi herself. I find the idea of being a food critic {dream} fascinating and she is a truly passionate foodie, that is certain. I especially enjoyed her international culinary adventures since I too, want to try Borscht in Russia. Her book was a little slow at times, that would be my only criticism. 
  • The Red Chamber, by Pauline A. Chen. Back into the world of Chinese history – against the breathtaking backdrop of eighteenth-century Beijing, the lives of three unforgettable women collide in the inner chambers of the Jia mansion. I am especially hard to please in this genre because I have fallen in love with the books of Anchee Min, who is my favorite Chinese author. Also when it comes to family stories, I found Wild Swans to be a really good read. I enjoyed getting lost in the inter-tangled web of relationships within the family and it was a well-written novel but still lacked something. Don’t expect a happy ending in this book. 
  • What Remains, by Carole Radziwill. A book about loss, love and friendship written by the lovable Carole. Best friend’s with John Kennedy Jr’s wife, Carolyn Bessette and led a pretty fascinating life as an ABC news producer and a marriage to a Polish Prince and John Kennedy Jr’s best friend. While not a Kennedy book, this focuses on the personal life of Carole. A small town girl who eventually lived a very exciting and also terribly heartbreaking life. Her book is easy to read and though I didn’t always empathize with her,  especially since her relationship just seemed a little passionless and businesslike at times – considering the situation, one can understand why. 
  • Modern Day Surf, by Robert Hash. Quoting amazonModern Day Serf systematically reveals how serfdom finds its way into all areas of our lives, including the ones we thought were normal, safe, or even boring. Modern Day Serf is a must-read for anyone who follows the rules, but can’t seem to get ahead. For those buried in consumer and student debt without the tools to dig themselves out. Written by our good friend Rob from Vita e Bella Blog, I loved this book also because I very much believe in the subject matter. This is not a book about ‘protesting’ or taking down the current system but instead it really allows you to question some of the ideals you have been brought up to think are the ‘right way’ and perhaps even think outside the box. 
  • My boyfriend wrote a book about me, by Hilary Winston. A TV writer offers an autobiographical account of her adventures in dating. This book is horrifying honest and you can’t help but really love her considering her ex-boyfriend really did write a book referring to his “fat-assed girlfriend” and visually imagining sex with every woman he came across while still dating her. Ouch! If I was her, it would have been hard for me not to clobber his brains out but she took the smart approach and wrote this honest and funny book that isn’t even as mean to him as you would imagine it to be. 
  • The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins. I’ve been meaning to read this for awhile now, and finally downloaded in to my kindle and read it in probably a day or two. Obviously you probably all have read it or seen the movie, and yep I loved it too! Great book and I will certainly be reading the rest of the trilogy. Good job Suzanne!
  • Waiting, by Ha Jin. From AmazonHa Jin portrays the life of Lin Kong, a dedicated doctor torn by his love for two women: one who belongs to the New China of the Cultural Revolution, the other to the ancient traditions of his family’s village. Ha Jin profoundly understands the conflict between the individual and society, between the timeless universality of the human heart and constantly shifting politics of the moment. This book was a disappointment for me, not that it wasn’t well written, I just found it boring. The protaganist came across as boring and annoying and though I finished the book, I expected more. By the end you could care less who he ended up with. I did find it fascinating to examine the life of those who were Doctors or nurses in this time period as well as how divorce was handled in China. 
  • Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West, by Blaine Harden. A fascinating look at one man’s escape from North Korea. Apparently between 150,000 and 200,000 people are being held in political prison camps, which have existed twice as long as Stalin’s Soviet gulags and twelve times as long as the Nazi concentration camps. Very few born and raised in these camps have escaped. But Shin Donghyuk did. Wow, I had no idea before I read this book that camps like this even existed in North Korea. This is a book of the can’t-put-down variety. The truly sad part was because of the indoctrination of life in the camps, relationships were rarely truly formed even among mother and son. Sad and harrowing, it makes you wonder if there is any hope for a country like North Korea under the present circumstances.
  • Coins in the Fountain, by Judith Works. We are finally back in Italy looking at the life of a middle-aged American woman who decides to accept a job with the United Nations, change her life, and move her & her husband to Rome a few different times. I normally dislike many ‘expat’ books because I feel they do not reflect the kind of reality that many foreigners in Italy live and give people a false notion of life in il bel paese. For example, I do not live in a villa under the Tuscan sun more like a soviet-block kind of building under the Tuscan sun. That said, I loved this charming book! Maybe it’s because Judith actually had a real job, I really related to her and her experiences – she just got it right. The good, the bad, the ugly – she and her husband enjoyed simple pleasures like discovering new food and taking weekend trips while also getting entangled in the frustrations of Italy in a non I’m-from-an-Anglo-country-so-I’m-better kinda way. Highly recommend for those who love Italy. 
  • In the Land of Invisible Women: A Female Doctor’s Journey in the Saudi Kingdom, by Qanta Ahmed. Last but not least on my list, my second book confession is that I am very fascinated by Saudi Arabia and the lives of women in the kingdom. I have read so many books about the lives of people in this country and it never ceases to amaze me how people would want to live in such imitating circumstances. As a woman, you must have a male guardian at all times in public and driving still isn’t legal for a woman in 2012. This book is great, even more so because as a western Muslim herself, she shows a very unique portrayal of trying to fit in and perhaps having more trouble considering as a Muslim herself, more is expected of  her. She even describes the Hajj pilgrimage – a really interesting {and very important} adventure. If you think this is a Saudi-bashing book, think again, it is actually a very real portrayal of the good and the bad of life from underneath the veil and I am left wanting more when I finished the book, always a great feeling in the mind of a reader.

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0 Responses

  1. I read ‘What Remains’ and really appreciated it. I get what you mean about their relationship perhaps seeming passionless or ‘cold’ and I didn’t get a real sense of their romantic relationship, but I thought the memoir was interesting and her descriptions of the endless treatments and always waiting for that other proverbial “shoe to drop” really struck me. I can’t imagine beginning married life with someone and you become primary care-giver to your new partner from the beginning to end. Not a light read, but well worth it, IMO! I also enjoyed the little inside glimpses of JFK Jr and Carolyn B.

  2. Some of these look really interesting! “What Remains” has been sort of on my “to read” list for a while.
    I’ve just started reading a book that takes place partly in Cinque Terre, but thankfully not too romance-novelly despite how that sounds! It’s called “Beautiful Ruin” by Jess Walter in case you’re interested! I always like to read books that take place in Italy, but it can be hard to find ones that aren’t too cheesy…

    1. oo thanks so much for the recommendation. I very love books based in Italy (same problem..many are so very cheesy..). I really liked “last train to liguria”.

  3. Another good ‘Italy’ book, IMO, is “Sicilian Summer” by Brian Johnston. For a book a bit more frivolous but still interesting (IMO), “Summer School” by Domenica de Rosa is ok.

Georgette Jupe

Welcome to my personal blog by a curious American girl living and working between Zug, Switzerland and Florence, Italy with my husband Nico, our newborn Annabelle and Ginger the beagle. This space is primarily to share about my love for Italy (currently on a 13 year romance) with a fair amount of real talk, practical advice, travel suggestions and adjusting to a new culture (Switzerland). Find me on IG @girlinflorence @girlinzug

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