Sunday, August 1, 2021
Aug. 1, 2021

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Check It Out: Color secrets, inspiration, essays and Agatha Christie

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My niece just got married on Dec. 1, and I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Colorado to attend the ceremony. And what a beautiful day it turned out to be. As I get older, it seems that I attend more funerals than weddings (sadly), so it was wonderful to have a chance to celebrate the start of a couple’s new life together.

One of the most unique elements of the days leading up to the wedding was the inclusion of an Indian tradition known as mehndi. Having grown up near an Indian family in her neighborhood, my niece learned much about their culture and became quite close to the family’s three children.

Mehndi is a form of body art which involves the use and application of henna. The more intricate the design, the longer the mehndi process takes.

I was fortunate enough to also attend and observe a portion of my niece’s mehndi experience. I say a portion because the application of henna to her hands, forearms, and feet took more than five hours — yes, the work was that detailed. The art of mehndi is still somewhat mysterious to me (and perhaps it is to you, too), so I am including a book about it in the reading list below.

The rest of this week’s reading suggestions are, again, an eclectic mix. The point is to suspend the holiday frenzy for a bit and enjoy the meditative benefits derived from reading a book. As a colleague of mine used to say, for most of us, whatever we’re doing at the moment isn’t brain surgery.

So, if the holiday baking takes a bit longer, or the Christmas cards get mailed a little late because you took time out to read, the world will forgive you.

Now go indulge that reading habit. It does a body (and mind) good.

  • “Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Season 1,” DVD from ITV Studio Homes Entertainment: Have you seen the latest film version of Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express”? It’s in the theaters now and is directed by and stars Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot, and includes actors Judi Dench, Johnny Depp, Penelope Cruz and others. I have not yet seen it, and here’s why. I am quite fond of the 1974 film version starring Albert Finney as detective Hercule Poirot, so I maintain a certain amount of skepticism about the ability of Kenneth Branagh’s version to win my approval. However, it’s wonderful that Agatha Christie’s novels continue to charm audiences, and if you just can’t get enough Hercule Poirot, check out the terrific British television series “Poirot” available on DVD at the library. As Poirot has been known to say, “It is the brain, the little gray cells on which one must rely.”
  • “The Art of Mehndi,” by Sumita Batra: Mehndi, which uses a paste made from the dried leaves of the henna plant, began in Ancient India. To learn more about its history and meaning as well as how to apply and decorate with henna, read Sumita Batra’s engaging do-it-yourself guide.
  • “The Best American Essays, 2017,” edited by Leslie Jamison: Leslie Jamison, author of the bestselling essay collection “The Empathy Exams” has gathered together some of the best essays from magazines, journals and websites. It includes writings about war, human behavior, gender, even an essay about the origin of the universe. Prepare to be entertained, captivated, and disarmed by the diverse and powerful writing presented in this anthology.
  • “Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere” by Zach Klein: I don’t know about you, but the arrival of colder weather makes me think about cabins. Wistfully, in fact. Not that I’ve ever owned a cabin, or, except for a handful of visits to a campground in New Mexico during my childhood, ever really experienced cabin life. I might be idealizing the whole cabin experience just a wee bit — big roaring fire, warm interior glow during a stormy night, floor covered with big, furry rugs, mugs of tea at the ready — but cabin living is definitely a preference for some people. If your dream home or vacation getaway falls firmly into this category, gather your very own “inspiration for your quiet place somewhere” by checking out this alluring tribute to all things “cabin-istic.”
  • “Cats I Have Known: On Love, Loss, and Being Graciously Ignored,” by Katie Haegele: I could say quite a lot about this delightful ode to the feline species, but I think the publisher says it best. “Through Haegele’s sharp, wise, and at times hilarious gaze, we see cats for what they truly are: minor deities that mostly ignore the human foibles being played out around them.” Compulsory cat book included in reading list? Check.
  • “The Secret Lives of Color,” by Kassia St. Clair: Did you know that the color of mauve was accidentally produced in 1856 by an 18-year-old scientist while he was trying to synthesize quinine from coal tar? Or that King Louis XVI once described one of his wife’s gowns (his wife was none other than Queen Marie Antoinette) as resembling the “couleur de puce” which translates to the color of fleas? This unique book will send you on a chromatic journey through the evolution, history and culture of color. Who knew that harvest gold and avocado, two colors practically synonymous with the 1970s, hit their stride thanks in part to the environmental movement? Hey there, beige, scarlet, cobalt — you have unsuspected depth.
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