Mountain Chic

Reflections and observations on culture, food, style and travel


With the exception of travel, nothing brings me as much joy as reading.  In some way, I’m reading for most of every single day – checking the New York Times app while waiting in line, reading a few pages of a novel when I arrive early to pick up my son from camp, reading Vogue magazine while my husband practices his guitar, and always reading a book before bed at night.  I taught high school English for 11 years (more on that in future posts!), and though there were many challenging and frustrating aspects to that job, for the most part I couldn’t believe I was paid to talk about literature all day.  I miss sharing the experience of reading and discussing books, and look forward to doing so on this site.  Here’s what I’m reading now:

  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Marie Kondo): This was my book club’s selection for July.  The writing is far from exceptional, but people aren’t crazy about this book because of the author’s style – it’s because her systematic approach to ridding yourself of your clutter (and, according to her thesis, your mental and emotional baggage along with it) seems to really resonate with people who, as a culture, have way too much.
  • Beautiful Ruins(Jess Walter): At first I was super snobby about this book.  I rolled my eyes at some of the clichéd character situations (ambitious girl with deadbeat boyfriend is in dead-end job and wonders if this is all there is in life).  I’m glad I stuck with this one, however.  Jess Walter impressively intertwines past and present for an absorbing Hollywood drama featuring flawed yet immensely likeable characters.  An entertaining read with just enough meat to be respectable but not so serious that it’s inappropriate for summer.
  • H is for Hawk(Helen Macdonald): This memoir is breathtaking.  Experiencing debilitating grief following the unexpected death of her father, Helen Macdonald decides to train a goshawk.  As Macdonald teaches the goshawk to be loyal to her and to take flight, so she finds a way through her recovery to begin to soar again herself.  Macdonald is an academic and this book is tough to read in some parts simply because of the attention it demands from you as a reader.  But it’s worth every moment.  When I finished the book, I wanted to turn back to the first page and begin again right away.
  • Go Set a Watchman(Harper Lee): To Kill a Mockingbird was one of my favorite books to teach, and this book, set 20 years later, was actually written by Lee in the 1950’s.  I am so eager to begin reading, as my copy just arrived today.  I’ve heard the story is troubling for some people because Atticus Finch is presented as a much more complex character than he was in To Kill a Mockingbird.
  • My Paris Dream(Kate Betts): Kate Betts did what I have always wished I’d done.  She packed up after college and set off for Paris to work in fashion. This book focuses on her five or so years in Paris when she was in her 20s and just starting out as an entry-level reporter at Women’s Wear Daily.  I love how Betts’s story of being ambitious, lonely, lost, eager, hopeful and searching reflects the universal, post-university 20-something experience as I knew it.  It’s cool to hear how she met Yves Saint Laurent and Christian Louboutin and everything, but the book is more than that – it’s a lovely coming-of-age story that even non-fashionistas will enjoy.
  • Jerusalem: A Cookbook(Yotam Ottolenghi & Sami Tamimi): This book satisfies my palate and my wanderlust, all at the same time.  It’s full of the delicious and inventive recipes Ottolenghi is known for, but the gorgeous photos of everyday life in Jerusalem make this cookbook rival the beauty of my favorite coffee table books.

What are you reading?  What should I add to my list?


3 thoughts on “What I’m Reading

  1. Abby Bartolotta says:

    Mrs. Sayers (Cullen…sorry, I’ll get use to it eventually!), this post made my day. Mainly because I agree with you on nearly everything in this post and it only reaffirms what I took from you in English class (which is to say…nearly everything).

    1. The Life-Changing: I just read The Happiness Project and didn’t love it, because the writing…left a lot to be desired. However, she, too, spoke about tidying up the many forms of clutter and I found that hugely helpful.

    2. Beautiful Ruins: I was disappointed…for the same reasons you were (samesies!). The story was cute, but I expected so much more re: the rave reviews. I guess the rave reviews were because the book was so apropos for summer reading, but nothing more. Although, the Cinque Terre-step-child setting gave me a very clear image of what I wanted to see during our Italy stint, and it certainly lived up to my expectations when we arrived.

    3. Go Set A Watchman: my goal for this Sunday!!

    4. My Paris Dream: (sigh)…sounds lovely. I’ll put that on the list.

    5. Jerusalem: My husband and I spent a week in Israel last year and among all of our travels, Israeli food was by FAR our favorite. When we got home, I saw the Jerusalem cookbook in a store and couldn’t WAIT to buy it. The pictures alone are worth the cookbook! Let me know your favorite recipes and I’ll try them out myself!


  2. Abby Bartolotta says:

    Oh, oh…and what am I reading? The Dante Club. It’s awful. I never want to read a book again that fictionalizes Longfellow, Emerson, and the others. I don’t want to see those authors in a real, human light. Let’s keep them on the untouchable pedestal! The mystery is bad, gruesome, and just…not as much about The Divine Comedy as I wanted it to be. I read In the Defense of Food on the beach last week and it was excellent – per usual for Michael Pollan. But, the book you HAVE to read, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. I was sobbing on the plane when I finished it, but it makes your soul feel happy at the end. OK I HAVE to start working…bye for now! 🙂


    1. lissa says:

      Abby, your comments make my day!!! I DID read The Storied Life of AJ Fikry. I LOVED it, too. A perfectly light summer read that still seems literary. I’d like to read In Defense of Food though I’m already on his side so I’m not sure about the time investment – haha. Definitely read My Paris Dream. You will love. I can’t wait to get to Jerusalem someday – I’ll let you know my fave recipes! Thanks so much for reading!!!


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