All I need to be entertained are cats within ear-scratching distance and a good book . . .OK, maybe that's not ALL I need, but it's a good start.

I love to read. And I love to get recommendations for books to read.

I started Cats and a Book to share the books I read with others. Some I love, some I don't, but you may love the ones I don't, so you're welcome to post your own comments and suggestions.

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Happy reading!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman

The Cookbook Collector, by Allegra Goodman, is a curious blend of love, secrets, and greed, intermingled with genealogy, rare book collecting, and the stock market.

The book's heroine is Jessamine Bach, a free spirited graduate student and antithesis of her sister Emily, a driven, tech company CEO. Jess comes to work at Yorick's, a rare bookstore, between attending philosophy classes and volunteering for Save the Trees leaflet campaigns. She has a tendency to become involved with "inappropriate" boyfriends, while her sister Emily's long-term love, Jonathan, has a tech company start-up of his own. Both Emily's and Jonathan's IPOs are due to hit at any time, making them both "gazillionaires."

Goodman introduces readers to Jess, Emily, Jonathan, George (the owner of Yorick's), Jess's roommates, her neighbor Mrs. Gibbs, Richard and Heidi (Jess's father and step-mother), their two daughters, co-workers of both Emily and Jonathan, other Save the Trees volunteers, and friends of George's. It's a veritable soap opera of relationships in flux, money issues, and career concerns. About halfway through the book, we discover the relevance of the book's title and meet a woman who wants to dispose of her uncle's cookbook collection. (To be fair, she does appear twice briefly in the pages before, but only to attempt to sell a book or two to George.)

What we learn is that secrets abound. Who was Jess's mother? What was it about her family that she didn't want Jess and Emily to know? Why was Sandra afraid to sell the cookbook collection? What secret did Emily tell Jonathan? And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Along with secrets and lies, love and betrayal, Goodman deals with the dot com boom and bust as well as 9/11. The latter event is difficult to read about, even in a novel. Perhaps, especially in a novel. But nonetheless, it brings back to mind the post 9/11 reality--the endless horrifying videos, the grim-faced news anchors, the American flags.

The Cookbook Collector might not appeal to cookbook collectors. Although food and drink is part of the story, it is tangential at best. Rather than the aroma of yeasty bread baking, the book conjures the scent of newly minted money instead.

Random House published The Cookbook Collector in 2010.

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