Posts Tagged ‘books’

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Life has been busy, y’all. So busy I slap forgot to put up my post last week. It’s a wonder Pete let’s me hang around. One thing about being retired is that I lose all track of time and I never know what day it is. On top of that, I started a part-time job at my church working Tuesday through Thursday so Tuesdays feel like Mondays and Thursdays feel like Fridays and I don’t know which end is up lately.

One thing I have been doing on my off time is reading a lot. I’ve always been an avid reader and I read whenever I get a chance; I prefer actual books, but I do have a Kindle and I read some things on that. I’m on NetGalley and preview books there prior to their publication for purposes of review and so by necessity those are on Kindle. Books that I don’t plan to keep on my shelves forever are also often read on Kindle. I can get my library books there too. Books I plan to keep, usually nonfiction or collector copies of fiction, are obviously real, paper books.

Anyway, I thought I’d share my most recent reading list with you. It is heavy on Louisiana thematically, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

For Christmas, I bought for myself a copy of Mosquito Supper Club by Melissa Martin. When this beautiful cookbook came out last year, I am embarrassed to say that I dismissed it as yet another chef hawking yet another Cajun cookbook with overblown and impossibly stuffy recipes fluffed out with pretty pictures. I could not have been more wrong. Martin’s photographs of swamps, bayous, fish, crabs, shrimp, and landscapes are stunning, but her recipes are from her family and from her childhood on the bayou in the southernmost parishes of Louisiana. She writes extensively about the vanishing marsh, sustainability, and the history of her Cajun people. The book is a gastronomical feast for the eyes and belly. I have thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook that is really so much more than a cookbook.

Speaking of the vanishing marshland, the nonfiction Bayou Farewell by Mike Tidwell is part history, part travelogue, and totally entertaining. Tidwell is interested in the vanishing Louisiana coast; as he travels down the bayou on one shrimp boat or another and talks to the locals, he is stunned to see how much land loss Louisiana has suffered in just one man’s lifetime. The rapid rate of this land loss is devastation. The book was originally published in 2003 and holds up still. Beautifully written, Tidwell takes you along the bayous and into the homes and around the dinner tables of the Cajuns that he meets. I read this book slower than I needed to because I did not want it to end.

Moving north from Cajun country, the next book I want to share with you is Shreveport Martyrs of 1873 by the Very Reverend Peter B. Mangum, JCL. This book tells the story of the 1873 yellow fever epidemic right here in Shreveport that wiped out at least a quarter of the population. The epidemic is the stuff of legends here, and tours of the historic Oakland Cemetery on the edge of downtown include a pass by the Yellow Fever Mound – the mass graves of the victims. Sometimes new dirt has to be brought in and put on the mound as sometimes pieces of fabric or bone might work their way to the surface. During this epidemic, there was obvious panic and concern as the affluent tried to protect their families by sending them away to stay elsewhere. Five missionary priests stayed behind, stayed with the sick, to minister to them, sacrificing their own lives to the fever. It’s quite a story and well researched.

And so, that’s one little bit that has been keeping me busy! My links are Amazon affiliate links, which I’m duty bound to disclose, but it doesn’t matter where you buy your books! These are good ones.

What are YOU reading?

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

SHREVEPORT – Some random observations from around the Web:

  • Perhaps I am a luddite, but the New York Times list of the best books of 2021 is bizarre to me. I would be hard pressed to find one or two that I would read.
  • Speaking of books, Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has a curious reading list to occupy his time over the Christmas break.
  • I love Christmas time in Louisiana! The levee bonfires, cancelled because of Covid last year, are back! The tradition serves to light the way for Papa Noel on Christmas Eve.
  • I went to see Spider-Man No Way Home this weekend; loved it. It was the first time I’ve been to a movie theater in a couple of years, but I’m glad I went. Great movie!
  • In the saddest news I’ve heard in a long time, this couple from Iowa died this past week within hours of each other from Covid. They ran a beautiful bed and breakfast called The Peppermill out of their lovingly restored Victorian home. Belle was an excellent cook, a DIY queen, creative, fun, and such a warm person. Her husband Dan was equally welcoming. This is devastating news to the community and of course to their daughter.
  • I loved Adrienne’s post on decluttering. The struggle is real.
  • The Democrats are coming after your gas stoves. Now let me tell you, one thing I CAN do is cook, and I refuse to cook on an electric stove. I know, you have one, you love it. Fine. That’s your choice. But when I’m making a gumbo, when I am cooking the roux, I want to see exactly how high that flame is. It’s an art. And no electric stove is going to do that for me. Besides, the key word there was CHOICE. I have a 1940s Chambers range in my kitchen, and it runs on gas. I’m keeping it.
  • Our church held the annual Nativity Pageant last night, and y’all, it was so dang cute. Little mice crawling up the aisle, at one point one of the sheep abandoned the stable and fled to his mother in the congregation, and little tiny angels. It was precious. Take a look!
  • I hope you all have a wonderful holiday! Eat as much fruitcake as you like, enjoy your families, read a good book, and remember the reason for the season. Merry Christmas from Shreveport.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium. She is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation (LSU Press).

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Random thoughts this morning….

  • I just saw in The Advocate that former NOLA mayor Mitch Landrieu has been appointed by Biden to oversee the $1.2 trillion dollar infrastructure bill. My first thought was “WTH?!”  Mitch Landrieu who was the ramrod for destroyed NOLA’s monuments, who thought “equity circles” would help solve crime in the city, the gun-control advocate…I mean, what could go wrong?  In trying to find some kind of positive spin on this, I can only hope he will perhaps do something with this new power to help coastal erosion issues in Louisiana.
  • Beto O’Rourke has thrown his hat in the ring for Texas governor.  Now I remember why I burned out of political blogging. I hate them all.  Hate.
  • On that note, I have just finished reading a book I thoroughly enjoyed: Hondo Crouch’s daughter, Becky, has written her third book and it’s a treasure. Luckenbach: The Center of the Universe, is a joyful look into the life of Hondo and the good times had by all at Luckenbach. If we could all only approach life as Hondo did, the world would be better. The man who fired a cannon full of chicken feathers during festivals at Luckenbach and awarded “purple hearts” to those “who fell down the best” obviously has a joyful outlook on life. The man who led a parade from the Alamo to Luckenbach, TX while playing a pea-trap with a kazoo hidden inside is someone I wish I had known. I laughed out loud on nearly every page and read every other page aloud to my husband. So much fun!
  • Speaking of books, I’m happy to be able to get back out on the speaking circuit again. The Covid shutdowns pretty much halted any book appearances I was doing after Cane River Bohemia came out. That, and time – those things taper off after your book has been out for a year or so. But I do have an appearance tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. It is fun to get out, meet people, and talk about a project so close to my heart. This book has taken me all over the state of Louisiana and it’s been a fun ride.
  • Holidays? I’m feeling a bit of Christmas spirit this year; sometimes it’s more of a struggle, but this year, since so many things were shut down last year, I am a little excited. That being said, I am a one holiday at a time girl, and I’m not going to put up any tree until after Thanksgiving. Plus, we put up a live tree, and it will be quite dead by Christmas if I put it up too early. One holiday at a time. No tree. Yet.
  • Closing arguments today in the Rittenhouse trial. Predictions?

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – As an avid and constant reader, I decided to do the Reading Challenge on Goodreads again this year; last year I set the lofty goal of 100 books and missed the mark with 63 out of 100 books.

This year, because of the pandemic, probably, I did better. I set a lower goal of 75 books and so far I’ve read 82. I’ll probably be at 83 by the end of the year.

Currently I am reading Wuhan Diary by Fang Fang, which is the collected dispatches, or posts, from the renown Chinese author during the 76 days of the Wuhan lockdown. While most of us are tired of Covid, tired of reading about Covid, and tired of all things Covid, I am enjoying the book.

To me, it is interesting to see what it was like in Wuhan in the days after the pandemic broke. Fang Fang’s frustration with the situation is evident and she is well aware that the government censors are reading and taking down her posts. Her readers would screenshot the posts and share them via text message to each other, and in many ways she became the voice of the pandemic in Wuhan as people in lockdown were starved for information that was not filtered for them.

Her frustration with the initial position that the virus is not contagious from person to person is clear. She does not mince words, despite the censors. As the lockdown in Wuhan drags on, it has been interesting to read how neighbors worked together to supply each other with fresh food, medicines, and supplies.

The book also shows that we are not all that different; Fang Fang loses many friends and colleagues to the virus; she deals with the same problems we all have: shortages, misinformation, isolation.  She worries a great deal about the mental health issues that result from the lockdown and she worries about the marginalized who cannot get medical treatment, especially in the earlier days before the temporary hospitals were constructed.

She also has very relatable problems, like running out of dog food. (She cooked rice for her dog when this happened.)

Sometimes she even challenges the censors. She wants to be seen as a witness, not necessarily a critic. As a result, her voice is honest, and heartbreakingly real.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but I do recommend it. Somehow it seems fitting to end this year of the pandemic with Wuhan Diary.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.