Thursday, September 29, 2011

two more from the Myth series

I'm a big fan of Canongate's Myth Series and my intent is to collect hard-cover copies of each of them.

Thanks to one of Russell's sisters, I know have two more books to add to my little collection.

The Fire Gospel by Michael Farber and Where Three Roads Meet by Salley Vickers.

In other birthday-related news, for those who were wondering, my sister's presents did have an intentional orange theme. We're still waiting on one item to arrive.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

happy birthday to me

An explanation of my recent blog silence is forthcoming,1 but I didn't want to skip my usual post about books I received for my birthday.

This year, I received only one book (so far). It's from my sister and I'm fairly certain that she chose it specifically because of the orange color on the cover. Seriously. All the other items I received from her were orange2 so I think she decided to go with orange as a theme. Apparently there are two more items on their way so we'll see if I'm right. I could ask, but where's the fun in that.

In any case, back to the book. This particular title was on my wishlist. I'd heard the author interviewed on NPR and was intrigued.

Marrying Anita: A Quest for Love in the New India by Anita Jain

Is arranged marriage any worse than Craigslist? One smart and feisty womans year in India looking for a husband the old-fashioned way reveals a rapidly changing culture and a whole host of ideas about the best way to find a mate.
Anita Jain was fed up with the New York singles scene. After three years of frustration and awkward dates, and under constant pressure from her Indian parents to find someone, she started to wonder: was looking for a husband in a bar any less barbaric than traditional arranged marriage? After all this effort, there had to be something easier.
After announcing in a much-discussed New York magazine article her intention to try arranged marriage, Jain moves back to India—the impoverished, backward land her parents fled—to find a husband. At age thirty-two, and well past the cultural deadline for starting a family, Jain subjects herself to a whole new onslaught of expectations. Marrying Anita is an account of romantic chance encounters, nosy relatives, and dozens of potential husbands. Will she find a suitable man? Will he please her parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins? Is the new urban Indian culture in which shes searching really all that different from America?
With disarming candor, Jain tells her own romantic story even as it unfolds before her, and in the process sheds new light on a country modernizing at breakneck speed. Marrying Anita is a refreshingly honest look at our own desires and the modern search for the perfect mate.

Also, I'm so excited about one of my non-book gifts that I simply must share. I got one of Etsy seller sewtara's "caffeinating, please wait" sleeves. I've been wanting one of these ever since I first saw the listing (when my friend Jessica added it to her Etsy favorites list). My sister got sewtara to make me one with an orange load bar and lining. love!

  1. Nothing substantive; things have just been very busy here
  2. I'm including one of these--a non book gift--below (or above, in this case) because I just can't help myself

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

As I mentioned earlier this week, I won a copy of Divergent from Kaye at paper reader. I wasn't planning on posting about Divergent this weekend. I have lots of to-be-written and to-be-finished posts in my queue and I've posted about two YA dystopians recently1. But, I read it from start to finish on Friday, staying up way past my usual bedtime to do so, and it's the first time I've done that in quite a while so I figured Divergent deserved quick treatment.

Divergent by Veronica Roth
Decades ago our ancestors realized that it is not political ideology, religious belief, race, or nationalism that is to blame for a warring world. Rather they determined that it was the fault of human personality--of humankind's inclination toward evil, in whatever form that is. They divided into factions that sought to eradicate those qualities they believed responsible for the world's disarray. [...] Those who blamed aggression formed Amity. [...] Those who blamed ignorance became the Erudite. [...] Those who blamed duplicity created Candor. [...] Those who blamed selfishness made Abnegation. [...] And those who blamed cowardice were the Dauntless. (42-43)
Beatrice Prior, who grew up within the self-sacrificing Abnegation faction, has reached the age when she must make the biggest decision of her life. She, like all sixteen-year-olds in her post-apocalyptic Chicago, is evaluated to determine the faction for which she's best suited. While the evaluation results are stored, they do not determine placement. Using the evaluation as guidance, Beatrice must chose with which faction to ally herself. She'll still have to pass her chosen faction's initiation. If she doesn't, she'll spend the rest of her life as a factionless on the outskirts of society.

On the day of her evaluation, Beatrice is unsure about which faction she'll choose. When her result is anomalous, Beatrice has more questions than before and only one day to make the decision. Beatrice goes with her gut and chooses Dauntless2 despite the fact that her decision might mean that she'll never see her parents or brother again. The Dauntless initiation is much more intense than Beatrice, who renames herself Tris, imagined and the things she learns during it make her question the status quo.

I really enjoyed Divergent (I assume that's obvious based on what I posted above) and, while it wasn't perfect, it didn't disappoint me. Readers don't receive any information about what big, apocalyptic event (if any) caused society to break down and reorganize in this way. They also don't learn anything about the world outside of Chicagoland.3 This didn't bother me too much because it's quite possible given what we do know that the individuals living in Roth's Chicago have no contact with the outside world (if society even exists out there).

At first I thought that Divergent would have been a stronger novel without Tris' blossoming romance. That it wasn't necessary. That Tris and the other character could have played off each other without their relationship developing into a romantic one. I thought it would have been better to leave this particular romance out or to leave it unstated and/or unrequited until later in the series (because, yes, Divergent is the first in a series). But then I remembered the final scenes and I'm not sure how some of them would have played out if Tris and the other character hadn't been in love. I guess I'll just say--for the people like me who are tired of the "instalove" often portrayed in YA novels-- that Tris' romance is not quite of that ilk. They don't instantly fall for each other, there is tension, and they have much more in common than either of them realizes.

Tris is a relateable heroine, despite the fact that things sometimes seem too easy for her (and there is actually an explanation for that ease). The society Roth depicts is interesting and different than any other I've read thus far. Divergent also works well as a first-book-in-a-series. There's world building and the revelation of an overarching storyline, but the novel has a satisfying conclusion. One of the areas in which Divergent excels is in not getting bogged down in world-building and backstory. Divergent is fast-paced and full of action. It is a bit heavy on the violence, but I think the story itself is so engrossing that even individuals who are sensitive about violence can push on past those sections.

Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent will be released in May 2012. It's going straight on my wish list.
  1. Bumped by Megan McCafferty (see post) and Delirium by Lauren Oliver (see post).
  2. The encircled flame on Divergent's cover is the Dauntless seal. Though, I think that the stamped version on the hardcover itself is more striking than the burning image on the dust jacket.
  3. Chicagoland isn't a term used in the book. It's just an informal term for the Chicago metropolitan area. As far as I remember, Roth never names her imagined society.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Little Red Riding Hood

I've come across quite a few awesome Little Red Riding Hood-inspired items lately, so I decided that a post was in order.

corset-maker Damsel in this Dress has a fun, sexy Little Red Riding Hood costume for sale in her Artfire and Etsy shops (special price until the end of the day today) as part of her 13 Days of Halloween celebration.

You can read all about the costume, see the three color options (I'm quite fond of the patchwork version), and watch a hysterical reality tv-inspired video on Damsel's blog.

I'll admit that I do question whether I'd be able to pull off any of her costumes, but I'm really curious about what else she's come up with. So far there's Little Red, a Where the Wild Things Are-inspired Monster, and the forthcoming pumpkin (I desperately need the hat that goes along with that costume).

I discovered artist Christian Jackson and his wonderful minimalist Children's Story Posters via WORD for Teens. They are all so clever, but my favorites are Alice in Wonderland and Little Red Riding Hood.

Little Red Riding Hood and his other posters are available through Jackson's Imagekind shop. You can get framed and printed in/on a variety of different sizes/media, so there's an option to meet nearly any price point.

The Woods Belong to Me, a wonderful design by radiomode (aka Budi Kwan), is currently in-print at Threadless.

I bought the style pictured (I had a Groupon for Threadless), but scoop neck and zip-up hoodie versions are also available.

I just created a Little Red Riding Hood-themed treasury list on Etsy.

I'm having a lazy Saturday and I figured I might as well.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Woman's World by Graham Rawle

Woman's World by Graham Rawle

Woman's World is a novel constructed entirely of text (and images) cut from magazines. Women's magazines from the early 1960s. My friend Nancy assigned it to me as part of my 2011 take-a-chance reading challenge.

I'm at a bit of a loss as to how to write about Woman's World without including spoilers. I'm usually anti-spoiler, but in this case I think it's especially important. I think the best way to experience Woman's World is to come at it without any preconceived notions and let the novel reveal itself.

Woman's World is odd and it's not just because of its construction. I can't say that I enjoyed reading it. I marveled at the layout of each page, but I read the story with a profound sense of foreboding. All is not right within the protagonist's family. Readers experience suspicion, then certainty, but the full truth of the matter is revealed only slowly.

The story is engrossing and unexpectedly atmospheric, but one never ceases to notice the underlying collage. The pieced-together text isn't distracting, though, it adds to the narrative. Woman's World is composed of women's magazines, but it is also very much about women's magazines, the voice with which they speak, and ideas they are trying to sell to their readers.

What I liked best about Woman's World is that Rawle included a piece on the making of the book. The piece is short, but fascinating. Rawle explains the construction of one page in 40,000 Not-Very-Easy Pieces (skip the introductory paragraph if you don't want any spoilage).

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I won a copy of...

Divergent by Veronica Roth
from Kaye at paper reader. Thank you, Kaye!

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue — Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is — she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are — and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves...or it might destroy her.

I suspect that I'll read Divergent fairly soon so expect a review post in the near future.

Monday, September 12, 2011

adaptation: Sherlock

Sherlock television series

Sherlock was recommended to us earlier this year by our friend Chris,1 but Russell and I hadn't had a chance to see it until recently. Our local public television station played the first two episodes--"A Study in Pink" and "The Blind Banker"--during a fund drive. Two episodes doesn't seem like much, but each episode is 90 minutes long and each season consists of only three episodes. So, despite having only seen two episodes, we've seen two-thirds of season one.

Sherlock reimagines Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary characters in a contemporary setting. The series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as an extremely tech-saavy, slightly Auspergian Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as the wonderfully ordinary war veteran, John Watson.

"A Study in Pink" (remember that A Study in Scarlet is what introduced Holmes to the world) is the series opener. In it, Dr. Watson, recently returned from Afghanistan and suffering from PTSD, is introduced to Sherlock Holmes when a mutual acquaintance finds out they are both in need of a flatmate. In short order, Watson moves into 221B Baker Street, which is still owned by Mrs. Hudson (who incorrectly assumes that Watson is Holmes' new live-in boyfriend). PI Lestrade (Rupert Graves) seeks assistance from "unofficial consultant" Holmes after one suspicious suicide becomes a series and Watson is kidnapped by a man claiming to be Holmes' archenemy.

I liked Sherlock, so much so that I could have watched all six episodes in a row if I'd had access to them. I think the series is fresh and interesting, yet still very authentic-feeling. Russell is much more of a purist so his thoughts on the show may be a bit more meaningful to die-hard Doyle fans. Though updated, Russell thought that Sherlock remained true to the original especially with regard to the main characters, their personalities, and histories.
  1. Chris is also a blog reader. Hi, Chris!

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

This is a follow-up to Sunday's post. The focus is on another dystopian YA novel that I got during the Borders liquidation.

One of the categories for my 2011 take-a-chance reading challenge is "loved one's choice." Since it was one of my favorite categories, I asked three different people (Russell and my good friends Jessica and Nancy) to provide me with reading assignments. Jessica gave me a choice of four options,1 one of which was Delirium by Lauren Oliver. I fully intend to read all four of her selections (though likely not all within 2011), but since Delirium is the first one I've gotten to, it's the one I'll be counting for the challenge.

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Magdalena Haloway has grown up in a world that considers amor deliria nervosa, or more specifically how individuals infected with the disease act and react, the biggest threat to society. There is a cure, but it's risky to have the procedure performed too early. Boys and girls are segregated to reduce the likelihood of disease contraction in youth. As individuals near their eighteen birthday and cure date, they undergo an evaluation and receive a list of approved matches. Lena is counting the days until her procedure, looking forward to the safety it will provide. That is... until she meets Alex.

Like Bumped (see post), Delirium disappointed me (and it's also the first in a planned series).

I liked the concept (though I will admit that it was a bit too much like Scott Westerfeld's Uglies) and Oliver's writing, but the story itself fell flat for me. It was really a combination of things, not all of which would normally put me off. The pace is very slow. Lena's best friend Hana is much more interesting than she is. Lena and Alex fall in love far too quickly and with little chemistry. What bothered me the most, though, was the lack of observable menace and oppression in the society. Yes, we are told that there are strictly-enforced curfews, that it's really difficult to cross the border, that people who fall in love are punished and killed, but we see precious little of that. It's far too easy for the characters to get away with everything that they do and because of that the society in which they were supposed to be living seemed inauthentic to me.

Because there are two more books planned for the series, I'm fairly certain that things at the end of Delirium are not necessarily what they seem. I suspect that the series will get better (in general, as the larger story is played out, not in reference to the aforementioned ending), but I don't plan on reading the other books.
  1. You can see the list of Jessica's selections in this post.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Booker shortlist

I never got around to posting about this year's Man Booker Prize longlist, but the shortlist was announced today.

I haven't read any of the featured titles so I'm just showcasing them below with their synopses (and very brief comments). But, the fact that four of the longlist titles were debut novels, two of which made it to the shortlist, warms the cockles of my heart.

Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again. He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black. Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero's bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there's more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero's fate was settled. Half Blood Blues weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don't tell your story, someone else might tell it for you. And they just might tell it wrong ...

The only thing I don't like about Half Blood Blues is that its title brings to mind a paranormal romance.

Jamrach's Menagerie by Carol Birch

Jamrach's Menagerie tells the story of a nineteenth-century street urchin named Jaffy Brown. Following an incident with an escaped tiger, Jaffy goes to work for Mr. Charles Jamrach, the famed importer of exotic animals, alongside Tim, a good but sometimes spitefully competitive boy. Thus begins a long, close friendship fraught with ambiguity and rivalry.
Mr. Jamrach recruits the two boys to capture a fabled dragon during the course of a three-year whaling expedi­tion. Onboard, Jaffy and Tim enjoy the rough brotherhood of sailors and the brutal art of whale hunting. They even succeed in catching the reptilian beast.
But when the ship’s whaling venture falls short of expecta­tions, the crew begins to regard the dragon—seething with feral power in its cage—as bad luck, a feeling that is cruelly reinforced when a violent storm sinks the ship.
Drifting across an increasingly hallucinatory ocean, the sur­vivors, including Jaffy and Tim, are forced to confront their own place in the animal kingdom. Masterfully told, wildly atmospheric, and thundering with tension, Jamrach's Menagerie is a truly haunting novel about friendship, sacrifice, and survival.

This reminds me a little too much of Life of Pi, which I mostly hated, but I'm willing to give it a try anyway. Love the cover.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman
*debut novel*

Lying in front of Harrison Opuku is a body, the body of one of his classmates, a boy known for his crazy basketball skills, who seems to have been murdered for his dinner. Armed with a pair of camouflage binoculars and detective techniques absorbed from television shows like CSI, Harri and his best friend, Dean, plot to bring the perpetrator to justice. They gather evidence--fingerprints lifted from windows with tape, a wallet stained with blood--and lay traps to flush out the murderer. But nothing can prepare them for what happens when a criminal feels you closing in on him. Recently emigrated from Ghana with his sister and mother to London's enormous housing projects, Harri is pure curiosity and ebullience--obsessed with gummy candy, a friend to the pigeon who visits his balcony, quite possibly the fastest runner in his school, and clearly also fast on the trail of a murderer. Told in Harri's infectious voice and multicultural slang, Pigeon English follows in the tradition of our great novels of friendship and adventure, as Harri finds wonder, mystery, and danger in his new, ever-expanding world.

Does this sound good or what? I thought I liked the cover art on the British edition (pictured) best (color!), but then I took a closer look at the American one.

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

Tony Webster and his clique first met Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they navigated the girl drought of gawky adolescence together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, certainly more intelligent, but they swore to stay friends forever. Until Adrian's life took a turn into tragedy, and all of them, especially Tony, moved on and did their best to forget.
Now Tony is in middle age. He's had a career and a marriage, a calm divorce. He gets along nicely, he thinks, with his one child, a daughter, and even with his ex-wife. He's certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer's letter is about to prove. The unexpected bequest conveyed by that letter leads Tony on a dogged search through a past suddenly turned murky. And how do you carry on, contentedly, when events conspire to upset all your vaunted truths?

You know I've been reading the Thursday Next books and being in that frame of mind makes the unexpected bequest (which I admittedly find intriguing) scream "plot device!"

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

Hermann Kermit Warm is going to die. The enigmatic and powerful man known only as the Commodore has ordered it, and his henchmen, Eli and Charlie Sisters, will make sure of it. Though Eli doesn't share his brother's appetite for whiskey and killing, he's never known anything else. But their prey isn't an easy mark, and on the road from Oregon City to Warm's gold-mining claim outside Sacramento, Eli begins to question what he does for a living – and whom he does it for.
With The Sisters Brothers, Patrick deWitt pays homage to the classic Western, transforming it into an unforgettable comic tour de force. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters – losers, cheaters, and ne'er-do-wells from all stripes of life – and told by a complex and compelling narrator, it is a violent, lustful odyssey through the underworld of the 1850s frontier that beautifully captures the humor, melancholy, and grit of the Old West and two brothers bound by blood, violence, and love.

I nearly took a copy of this home with me during our last trip to Borders (which may have been Sunday and unreported).

Snowdrops by A.D. Miller
*debut novel*

Nick Platt is a British lawyer working in Moscow in the early 2000s—a place where the cascade of oil money, the tightening grip of the government, the jostling of the oligarchs, and the loosening of Soviet social mores have led to a culture where corruption, decadence, violence, and betrayal define everyday life. Nick doesn’t ask too many questions about the shady deals he works on—he’s too busy enjoying the exotic, surreally sinful nightlife Moscow has to offer.
One day in the subway, he rescues two willowy sisters, Masha and Katya, from a would-be purse snatcher. Soon Nick, the seductive Masha, and long-limbed Katya are cruising the seamy glamour spots of the city. Nick begins to feel something for Masha that he is pleased to think is love. Then the sisters ask Nick to help their aged aunt, Tatiana, find a new apartment.
Of course, nothing is as it seems—including this extraordi­nary debut novel. The twists in the story take it far beyond its noirish frame—the sordid and vivid portrayal of Moscow serves as a backdrop for a book that examines the irresistible allure of sin, featuring characters whose hearts are as cold as the Russian winter.

Of the six shortlisted titles, I'm probably the least interested in reading this one.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I love a good dystopian novel. Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale has been one of my favorite books since I first read it (around 1999). It follows that I'd appreciate the spate of dystopian (both YA and not) fiction being published recently. Of the seven of books I've gotten for myself during the Borders liquidation (the list is below for those of you who haven't been keeping track), three have been dystopians. I've already posted about Shades of Grey. This post is the first of two focused on the YA dystopians I brought home and read right away.

Bumped by Megan McCafferty

I'd been wanting to read Bumped for what seemed like ages (it can't really have been all that long, though, since the book only came out this April). I kept seeing good reviews of the novel, which made me want to read it even more.

Bumped takes place in min-2030s Princeton, New Jersey. In the wake of the Human Progressive Sterility Virus epidemic, the United States is trying raise its teenage birthrate. When nearly all individuals over the age of eighteen are infertile, nubile girls are the highest valued segment of the population.

The novel's protagonists, Melody and Harmony, are sixteen-year-old identical twins who were separated at birth. Melody's adoptive parents have groomed her to be the first girl in her school to "go professional." She's got a six-figure contract and she's just waiting for her couple to find their perfect sperm donor. Harmony, on the other hand, was raised in a religious community. In her world, girls marry young and only have sex (and children) within marriage. Harmony discovers Melody's existence while trying to find her birth parents. The two girls have barely begun to know each other (via email and chat) when Melody arrives on Harmony's doorstep and the narrative begins.

Bumped is a bit different than most much dystopian fiction (which may disappoint some readers). There's no authoritarian government or overt suppression, but there are dystopian elements to the society McCafferty depicts. And, there's a lot of social commentary both subtle and overt sprinkled throughout Bumped. The more that I think about the novel, the more little digs I remember.

Overall, though, I have to say that my opinion of this book suffered from my high expectations. I didn't dislike Bumped, but I wasn't blown away by it. The concept is interesting and I like how McCafferty uses satire, but I can't help but think that Bumped would have been better if it had been conceived as a one-off rather than the opener for a series. While I didn't like Jondoe's character or the way the novel ended, my biggest criticism of the book is that Harmony did not seem authentic (primarily because some of her decisions were so far out of character that no explanation for them could be satisfactory).

Thumped, the sequel to Bumped, is scheduled for an April 2012 release.
    Karen's Borders pickings:
  1. The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross
  2. Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde
  3. Bumped by Megan McCafferty
  4. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  5. Encounter by Milan Kundera
  6. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey
  7. One of Our Thursdays Is Missing by Jasper Fforde

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Typealyzer: Myers-Briggs based on blogs

Yesterday I Marg of Adventures of an Intrepid Reader posted about being typealyzed, ie. having her blog posts analyzed by code at Typealyzer. I snuck over and entered morsie reads right away and was intrigued by the results.

From my most recent blog posts, Typealyzer has determined that I'm an ISTP (introverted sensing thinking perceiving). What amuses me about this is that only one of the four indicators (the I) is true to my non-online personality. This blog isn't a personal diary so it makes sense that my blog persona is not completely in line with my real one, but I wonder how much of it is the subject matter (books and bookish things) and how much is an unconscious decision to project myself as different than I am. Apparently the ISTP is a daredevil, which I assuredly am not.

I'll have to re-typealyze with different posts to see whether my personality as expressed through the blog is consistent or not.

You can read more about Typealyzer at About Typealyzer and Psychographics.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Mrs. Beeton's

For comfort reading and in preparation for One of our Thursdays is Missing, the sixth installment in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series, I've been rereading the earlier books. At the moment I'm on The Well of Lost Plots (book #3), which like all the other Thursday Next books is full of literary references. I was absolutely tickled to come across multiple references to Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (unfortunately incorrectly cited as "Mrs. Beeton's Complete Housekeeper").1 The mentions didn't mean much to me during my earlier readings, but we're big fans of Mrs. Beeton's at my new place of employment. My coworker even has a Mrs. Beeton's apron like the one pictured here.

Isabella Beeton (nee Mayson) was the Martha Stewart of her day2 and Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management (1861) was her magnum opus (1000+ pages). For the contemporary reader Mrs. Beeton's is a window into the middle-class Victorian home. While the text is heavy on cookery, it also provides advice on any number of topics relevant to the mistress of the house (who is likened to the commander of the army). Readers learn how many and what type of servants one need employ based on one's income, what to feed an invalid, how to diagnose and treat thrush, the logistics of serving dinner la Russe, and myriad other things.

The original Mrs. Beeton's is out of copyright so the text of the book is widely available on the internet. has a nice layout.

  1. Here's the first one: "I went downstairs and explained to obb the rudiments of cooking, which were as alien to it as having a name. Fortunately I found an old copy of Mrs. Beeton's Complete Housekeeper, which I told obb to study, half jokingly, as research. Three hours later it had roasted a perfect leg of lamb with all the trimmings. I had discovered one thing about Generics already: dull and uninteresting they may be -- but they learn fast" (p. 13 of my British edition).
  2. I cringed at that cliche even as I typed it.