Thursday, September 27, 2012

Series books and dubious cooks

"When still a child, make sure you read a lot of books. Spend more time doing this than anything else." —Zadie Smith, #1 of 10 Rules of Writing, in The Guardian 
I think for many of us, our youthful joy in reading was accelerated by a favorite book series, whether it be the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women, Little Men et al., Freddy the Pig, the Wizard of Oz books, or Harry Potter. These images from a University of Maryland library exhibit on girls' series books show how iconic girl sleuth Nancy Drew evolved over the decades.
I love this book cover too! What was your favorite series growing up?
This is a page from Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified by Bunpei Yorifuji, which illustrates facts with appealing graphics. What a way to make studying enjoyable (and increase retention)!
In coming up with the name for her magnum opus on French cooking, Julia Child sent a stack of possible titles to Judith Jones, her editor at Knopf. This is the list, with my sense of potential American reactions in parentheses. (Feel free to suggest more.)

La Bonne Cuisine Française (can't pronounce)
In Love with French Cooking (hyperbole!)
The Love of French Cooking (ah, l'amour)
Cooking for Love (pathetic and needy)
The French Cooking Master (sounds diabolical)
Cooking Mastery (too much work)
Mastery of French Cooking (tame that cuisine!)
The French Kitchen (blah)
Food from France (highly suspect!)
France's Food (frog legs and tripe; pass)
The Noble Art of French Cooking (la di dah!)
The Master French Cookbook (and for the Mistress?)
Great French Cooking (ok)
The Compulsive Cook (neurotic)
Cooking is my Hobby (how nice for you!)
The Hobby of French Cooking (awkward)
French Cooking as a Hobby (not bloody likely)
School for French Cooks (somewhat Molière-esque)
School for French Cookery (effete)
A Course on French Cooking (academic!)
The Passionate French Cook (risqué)
French Cooking for Fun (truth in advertising??)
French Cooking for Love (looking for love in all the wrong places)
French Cooking for Everyone (hardly!)
Cook for Your Self a la Française (this one's just sad)
Mastering the Art of French Cuisine/Cooking/Cookery BINGO!


  1. My favorites growing up: Tamora Pierce's book series, especially the Lioness Quartet and the Immortals series. The His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman. And above and beyond all others, Harry Potter by J K Rowling.

    For a slightly nerdy, awkward girl, I was understandably drawn to strong, intelligent female characters. Alanna, Veralidaine, Lyra, and Hermione (and Ginny and Luna) remain among my favorite fictional people of all genres for all time. I even named my sister cats Lyra and Luna.

    1. I LOVE the Dark Materials too . .. and strong girl characters!

  2. I loved Nancy Drew; that was one of the first series I picked up and read book after book because I couldn't get enough. And of course there was Harry Potter...I'm not ashamed to say I waited in a few of those crazy long lines at Barnes and Noble at midnight because I couldn't wait any longer.

  3. Growing up I was a super fan of any Roald Dahl books, although they weren't exactly a series he wrote his characters with a lot of similarities.

    The Wonderful Life with the Elements: The Periodic Table Personified looks like a super fun educational read, maybe chemistry classes should make this a required reading.

  4. I still have "The Sign of the Twisted Candles" and "The Mystery at Lilac Inn" on my shelf--the Grosset & Dunlap editions. I'm glad to see Nancy Drew has mastered the art of modernizing her look while never aging. I liked her because she was never afraid to speak out, to initiate actions, to encounter new people and situations.
    I, on the other hand, preferred books to people--something Nancy never did.
    They say some of her old books sell for a premium nowadays--too bad I colored the illustrations in mine.

    1. I just read on the Univ. of Maryland link that Nancy Drew dust jackets sell for several times what the books bring. The example was priced at $180.
      For a DUST JACKET.
      Tastes Like a Penny, did you get that?

    2. that's too funny gioconda. my six younger siblings colored and wrote their names in my mom's vintage Wizard of Oz books. oh well. we enjoyed them!
      The U MD Nancy Drew exhibit talks about how more often than not she was trapped somewhere in a book but used exceptional ingenuity to get out.
      I am going to scout around for old ND covers .... thanks for the tip!

  5. Growing up, I read all of The Babysitters Club and essentially any series I could get my hands on. I also really liked Encyclopedia Brown.

    Also, after seeing that element poster, I will now only ever refer to Lithium as "Battery Champion."

    1. YES! The Babysitter's Club... Loved all those books. Kind of embarrassing, but I also own the movie (and watch it pretty much every summer). My favorite was always Mary Anne.

  6. I treasure Lynda Barry and Matt Groening. The latter's classic "Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life" has been my touchstone and guide for many years. I remember when Lynda "Funk Queen" would show up on Letterman (Late Night). Speaking of cool appearances, I once saw an old SCTV episode and one of the skits featured ... Wait for it.... Pauline Kael!! Yes. While it may not appear in IMDB, I saw it, and she was funny! I recall her marching across the set and reveling in the cameo

    1. Funque Queen of the Universe to you, Herr Baron! SCTV = THE GREATEST!!

  7. Of course it takes a Japanese to come up with a good idea for the teaching of science! Although it has been awhile since I endured a public education, I recall how poorly science was taught, and how much of my knowledge had to be filled in later. I hope we do better now.

  8. More suggestions?
    Cooking for love-- DIY aphrodisiacs
    The French Cooking Master-- Girls cooking school turned on by teacher with je ne sais quoi
    The French Kitchen-- fleur-de-lis wallpaper
    The Master French Cookbook-- la batterie de cuisine= what powers the food processor.

  9. I was obsessed with The Hardy Boys and, subsequently, Nancy Drew. Both are equally responsible for my launch into the world of books. Cheers to Molly for name-checking Encyclopedia Brown!! I'd forgotten all about that series:)

  10. My favorite series growing up was The Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High oh wait and the Ramona books.

  11. My favorites were the Ramona books, then I advanced to everything by Judy Blume. I also loved Lois Duncan when I was 11-12. And Nancy Drew too!

  12. Loved the Babysitters Club, Little House on the Prairie, ...and I'll admit I did read quite a few of the Sweet Valley High books... Fail. I also read this random series called Thoroughbred. Anyone remember that? No, just me? I liked horses. Whatever.

    Encyclopedia Brown! I almost forgot about those books! I loved how you could solve the mysteries on your own and then flip to the back of the book and see if you got it right.

    Nancy Drew was always a favorite. I started off reading the crappy 90s versions (hey...I didn't know any better), and then discovered all my aunt's old copies from the 60s and 70s tucked away in a box in my grandparent's attic...SCORE.