Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

yes chefWhen Marcus Samuelsson was only three, his mother died in a tuberculosis epidemic in Ethiopia.  Along with his older sister, Samuelsson was adopted and raised in Göteborg, Sweden, where he developed a life-long love for food.  Yes, Chef is his memoir of growing up as a black child in an overwhelmingly white country, his struggle to work his way up the kitchen chain of command, and his return to Ethiopia in search of his birth family.  Now an award-winning chef in New York City, Samuelsson delivers honest and insightful reflections on family, race, immigration, and the restaurant world.

Quote:
“It wasn’t just the flavors that knocked me on my ass.  It was seeing different people holding it, preparing it, serving it.  Sometimes the chefs were not in the white jackets, and it wasn’t only men, it was women, it was children, it was everyone.  There were Indians, blacks, Koreans, mixed people.  When I had my own restaurant someday, I thought, I would never rule out someone based on race or sex or nationality.  I wouldn’t do it because it was egalitarian, I’d do it because cutting people out meant cutting off talent and opportunity, people who could bring more to the table than I could ever imagine.  I felt like I was climbing aboard a new food train, one that I’m still on to this day.”

Author:
Marcus Samuelsson is a chef, author, and restaurant owner.  Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, he has worked in restaurants across the globe.  In 2003, the James Beard Foundation recognized him as “Best Chef: New York City”, and in 2010 he won the Top Chef Masters competition.

Published:  2012
Length:  319 pages
Main Settings:  Göteborg, Sweden; New York City, New York, United States
Secondary Settings:  Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Interlaken, Switzerland

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

girl dragon tattooThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is twist on the classic locked-room mystery setup, with a teenage girl vanishing on a Swedish island accessible by a single bridge.  Decades later, disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is asked to investigate the cold case in exchange for information that will clear his professional reputation.  When he enlists the help of the ingenious hacker Lisbeth Salander, their investigation will lead them into a web of dark family secrets.

Quote:
“Her voice was as rough as sandpaper.  As long as Blomkvist lived, he would never forget her face as she went on the attack.  Her teeth were bared like a beast of prey.  Her eyes were glittering, black as coal.  She moved with the lightning speed of a tarantula and seemed totally focused on her prey as she swung the club again.”

Author:
Stieg Larsson (1954-2004) was a Swedish journalist, crime novelist, and the author of several non-fiction works.  The books in his Millennium Trilogy, which begins with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, were published posthumously and became international bestsellers.

Published:  2005 in Swedish; 2008 in English
Length:  465 pages
Set in:  Sweden

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Neither Here nor There: Travels in Europe by Bill Bryson

neither here nor thereBill Bryson first backpacked across Europe with his friend Katz (hilariously familiar to all who’ve read A Walk in the Woods) in the early 1970s.  Twenty years later, he sets out to retrace their steps.  As in any of his travel books, no country, city, or cultural icon is spared the bite of Bryson’s humor.

Quote:
“But that’s the glory of foreign travel, as far as I am concerned.  I don’t want to know what people are talking about.  I can’t think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.  Suddenly you are five years old again.  You can’t read anything, you have only the most rudimentary sense of how things work, you can’t even reliably cross a street without endangering your life.  Your whole existence becomes a series of interesting guesses.”

Author:
Bill Bryson is the author of various travel books, including A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country, as well as non-fiction such as At Home and The Mother Tongue.  Bryson currently lives in England with his family.

Published:  1992
Length:  254 pages
Set in:  Norway, France, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Turkey

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The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson

long shipsThe Long Ships tells the life story of Orm Tostesson, also called Red Orm, and his adventures as a viking around the year 1000 AD.  Taken captive from his home in Scania (present-day Sweden) at the age of sixteen, Orm spends his youth as a crew member on a long ship, as a slave on a Spanish ship, and a bodyguard for the Caliph of Córdoba.  His subsequent voyages take him to Ireland, England, and into what is now Russia.

Quote:
“The year ended without the smallest sign having appeared in the sky, and there ensued a period of calm in the border country.  Relations with the Smalanders continued to be peaceful, and there were no local incidents worth mentioning, apart from the usual murders at feasts and weddings, and a few men burned in their houses as a result of neighborly disputes.”

Author:
Frans G. Bengtsson (1894-1954) was Swedish author.  His works include poetry and essay collections, a biography of Charles XII of Sweden, and The Long Ships, which was published in two separate installments in the 1940s.

Published: 1954
Length:  498 pages
Set in:  Sweden, Ireland, Spain, Russia, England
Translated by: Michael Meyer

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