Ilivetolearn's Blog

September 30, 2010

the summer (and fall) of the 1000 books

Filed under: books/authors — ilivetolearn @ 1:58 pm

And by this I don’t mean I read a thousand books. I mean suddenly I realized how many books I had read and liked that had titles beginning “A Thousand…” or “The Thousand…” or “1,000…”. First, after doing a Google search for peach pie recipes, I stumbled across this:

It’s really an overgrown blog, but it has some interesting history about cooking in the US from…well, 1,000 years ago to the present. I was especially edified by the author’s discussion of the Home Economics movement, which arose amid disguised anti-immigrant impulses and resulted in the blandification (OK, I know that’s not a word) of American cooking. Anything ethnic and spicy was “too stimulating” and not suitable for modern, “scientific” American kitchen practices and palates. The promised peach pie was a bit disappointing, though I realized after making it that I had switched the sugar and flour measurements. Maybe I’ll try it again next time peaches are in season.

Just by chance, I happened to have this title hanging around the house, so I read it:

It came out in 1999 to not very good reviews but has enjoyed a resurgence as book clubs pick it up. The premise is that in 1875 President Grant and Little Wolf, Cheyenne chief, agree to trade 1,000 white women for 1,000 horses. The government rounds up ladies from almshouses, prisons, asylums (like the main character, May Dodd) and sends them out to “tame the savages.” The historical detail and nonstop plotline kept me reading, but the heroine is too good to be true, and the breathless way two of the heroes fall in love with her made it verge a little too close to a romance novel¬† for my taste.

Next I took these two out of the library:

I am loving Mitchell’s novel, a story of Dutch businessmen trading with Japan at the very beginning of the 19th century in Nagasaki. Very compelling language and well-researched detail about the xenophobic Japanese, the imperialist Europeans, and the women who suffer at the hands of both. I’m listening to it in the car and the performances (alternating male and female voices) are definitely adding to my enjoyment. At the same time, I am struggling through the print version of A Thousand Sisters, which bears the disadvantage of being the last thing I pick up in the 20 minutes before I fall asleep. Lisa Shannon is a good-hearted woman who was moved by an Oprah segment on the war in The Democratic Republic of the Congo, and especially on its devastating effects for women. She founded a nonprofit called Run for Congo Women, visited hundreds of women who have been sponsored by supporters in the US, and wrote about it. The degradation and tragedy she describes are heartrending and the difference she has made is inspiring, but I wish she were a better writer. Maybe there exists a sound recording of this book, read by a woman with some gravitas. That I could recommend. But on the page Shannon’s prose is too choppy and joky for its subject.

I actually have urged each of these books on various friends and family members, though I sound snarky and fault-finding here. But not one of them stands up to my previous “thousand” favorites:

So what’s next in the series? Maybe One Thousand Chestnut Trees: A Novel of Korea, by Mira Stout. I know the subject matter is up my alley (a woman with one Korean parent travels to Korea to “make sense of the random jigsaw pieces of her background”), but an Amazon review warns of its “imperfect grammar,” which could be a deal-breaker. I’m getting more and more incensed by typos and errors and inconsistencies that should have been fixed by good editing; the Hot Stove book was full of them (a particularly egregious flaw in a book in which every chapter ends with a recipe), and yet the author profusely thanked her copy editor in her afterword! A thousand nits to pick.



  1. Hooray! Happy to see you back at the blog! I also can’t stand it when I see terrible typos and the like in finished books. It always makes me automatically think “a human did not read this book before it went to print.”

    Comment by Sarah — October 1, 2010 @ 1:37 am | Reply

  2. I agree about the terrible type face. John just got an email from a reverend in the UK who reported that SIGNAL AND NOISE is unreadable on his kindle.
    this makes me want to write a THOUSAND piece to contribute to the oeuvre.

    Comment by Faith Catlin — October 5, 2010 @ 12:53 pm | Reply

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