In my current state of should-be-reading-but-I’m-not, non-fiction is not a suitable antidote. Not by a long shot. But work requires and so I comply. As mentioned before (ad nausuem at this point), I’m a member of an ongoing Readers’ Advisory Roundtable, which meets bi-monthly to dicuss a selection of titles (one or two assigned, the other a free choice) within the framework of reader defined appeal factors. The next meeting’s category is non-fiction travel narrative, and we’ve been asked to read three books. Just…great. That should only take me, oh, two, three years to complete.*rubs temples*
It’s not that I don’t enjoy non-fiction; there have been a rare few NF titles that have managed to sneak past my defenses, holding my attention for one reason or another. But those are exceptions, not the rule. Truth is, it takes me a long, long time to get through NF. Being a fast fiction reader, the slower pace frustrates me to no end. And if it’s a topic that holds no interest for me whatsoever…? Not good. Possibly? Probably? Not going to happen. In this case, however, I don’t have a choice.
So I’ve found myself taking a page out of my teen patrons’ playbook, asking: “How long is it?” I figure if I can separate my forefinger and thumb an inch, not two, apart and fit the book’s spine in between, I’m good. (Did I just admit that out loud? *clears throat*) The second criteria is choosing a destination that is irresistible to me – or one of them, at least – so…Paris!
Two of the titles I’m contemplating:
Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down – Rosecrans Baldwin
“A self-described Francophile from when he was little, Rosecrans Baldwin always dreamed of living in Paris—drinking le café, eating les croissants, walking in les jardins—so when an opportunity presented itself to work for an advertising agency in Paris, he couldn’t turn it down. Despite the fact that he had no experience in advertising. And despite the fact that he barely spoke French. After an unimaginable amount of red tape and bureaucracy, Rosecrans and his wife packed up their Brooklyn apartment and left the Big Apple for the City of Light. But when they arrived, things were not eactly what Rosecrans remembered from a family vacation when he was nine years old.
Paris, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down is a nimble comic account of observing the French capital from the inside out. It is an exploration of the Paris of Sarkozy, text-message romances, smoking bans, and a McDonald’s beneath the Louvre—the story of an American who arrives loving Paris all out of proportion, but finds life there to be completely unlike what he expected. Over eighteen months, Rosecrans must rely on his dogged American optimism to get him through some very unromantic situations—at work (writing booklets on how to breast-feed, raise, and nurture children), at home (trying to finish writing his first novel in an apartment surrounded on all sides by construction workers), and at every confusing French dinner party in between.
An offbeat update to the expat canon, Paris, I Love You is a book about a young man finding his preconceptions replaced by the oddities of a vigorous, nervy city—which is just what he needs to fall in love with Paris for the second time.”
The Sweet Life in Paris – David Lebovitz
“Like so many others, David Lebovitz dreamed about living in Paris ever since he first visited the city in the 1980s. Finally, after a nearly two-decade career as a pastry chef and cookbook author, he moved to Paris to start a new life. Having crammed all his worldly belongings into three suitcases, he arrived, hopes high, at his new apartment in the lively Bastille neighborhood.
But he soon discovered it’s a different world en France.
From learning the ironclad rules of social conduct to the mysteries of men’s footwear, from shopkeepers who work so hard not to sell you anything to the etiquette of working the right way around the cheese plate, here is David’s story of how he came to fall in love with—and even understand—this glorious, yet sometimes maddening, city.
When did he realize he had morphed into un vrai parisien? It might have been when he found himself considering a purchase of men’s dress socks with cartoon characters on them. Or perhaps the time he went to a bank with 135 euros in hand to make a 134-euro payment, was told the bank had no change that day, and thought it was completely normal. Or when he found himself dressing up to take out the garbage because he had come to accept that in Paris appearances and image mean everything.
The Sweet Life in Paris is a deliciously funny, offbeat, and irreverent look at the city of lights, cheese, chocolate, and other confections.”
Both are short, both, according to their publishers and reviewers, are supposed to have a touch of humor about them, and both are short. Did I–I already mentioned that. Well. Anyway. I’m only considering these, and so if you have any recommendations, let ‘em fly! (Particularly if they take the writer to Ireland, Norway or…Wherever. I’m game for taking a look at just about anything. So long as it’s not oodles of pages long. [Jeez. I have got to stop harping on that. It's not good for my in-the-stacks cred.])
For the curious, the two we’ve been assigned are: Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country and Frances Mayes’ Under the Tucson Sun.