Friday, May 30, 2014

Recommended Read: Drink This: Wine Made Simple

Drink This: Wine Made Simple (2009) by Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl
Call #: 641.22 GRU
Find it in the catalog!

While I'm a pretty big geek when it comes to craft beer and cocktails, I've always been a novice wine drinker at best.  Overall, I was mostly okay with this, in spite of the occasional twinge of embarrassment when ordering off of a wine menu.*  However, when I traveled to Italy last fall and was forced to drink wine like an actual snob (swirling and sniffing) and I sort of fell in love with the stuff.  Of course it helped that I was drinking what would be fifty to a hundred dollar wine stateside (just a little nicer than 4 buck Chuck).   So I decided to actually learn a thing or two about wine by following the tastings in Drink This. I haven't finished all the grapes yet (good wine is expensive), but I have vastly improved my taste.

Dara Moskowitz Grumdahl is a wine writer from the Minneapolis/ St. Paul area.  Her writing is very funny and practical, making Drink This a super accessible guide for those new to wine.  However, even relatively seasoned wine drinkers could probably learn something here.  The book is organized into nine major wine grapes: Zinfandel, Sauvingnon Blanc, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvingon, Syrah, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Pinot Noir. 

For each grape, she gives the background on it (where it's grown, its history, what to love and hate about it, etc.).  Then she describes the major styles of wine from the grape, what they taste like, examples of brands, and what to pay.  Finally, she gets to the fun part: tasting the grape!  Here she picks out 5-6 styles of the grape for you to buy and taste at home.  You can have a party or drink solo.  She gives you ideas of what food to pair with the wine. 

Whether you're looking to become a wine connoisseur or just want an excuse for a party with fancy wine, I heartily recommend Drink This. It's an enjoyable and informative read that gives you a really solid plan for learning about wine (and having a good time while doing it!).   After that, if you want to step up your wine game further, check out Kevin Zraly's Windows on the World Complete Wine Course

*"Excuse me, waiter, do you have anything pink?"

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Help Yourself: It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single

 It's Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You're Single by Sarah Eckl
Call No.: 306.815 ECK
Find it in the catalog!

Relationship self-help books aren't really my standard reading.  But this book stood out as being a little bit smarter and different than your standard "hard truths" about why you're single.  Instead, Eckl puts a positive spin on singles and women who marry later in life.  She break downs twenty-seven common myths about "what's wrong" with singles, and shows why maybe those aren't necessarily bad things.  Eckl's focus isn't on fixing yourself to land a partner.  Instead, she shows that while being single, especially if you'd rather be coupled, might be tough; it doesn't mean that there is anything fundamentally wrong with you that needs to be fixed.

Anyone who's ever been single for longer than their family or friends deemed acceptable has surely heard some of the "wrong reasons' before.  For instance, if only you "put yourself out there" (where ever "there" is), you'd meet the perfect gent.  Or my personal least favorite, "You're too picky." Because, of course, you should be happy to spend your life with just anybody!  It was affirming to hear Eckl break down each stereotype and show exactly how stupid they are.  "You're too intimidating" was one of my favorite chapters; where Eckl points out that maybe it isn't the best strategy to downplay your confidence and accomplishments just to attract a mate. 

Sarah Eckl herself married in her late thirties, after being single for most of her twenties and thirties. This book could have been a terrible "this is how I did it" guide for the later-in-life singles.  But thankfully, Ms. Eckl didn't take that route. Instead It's Not You is an empowering guide for anyone who might be less than lucky in love.

Also recommended:  Though fictional, Melissa Bank's short stories explore similar territory.  I heartily recommend both of her short stories collections, Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot.  Her books are funny, smart and deeply relatable.  Read them even if you are happily married!