Surznick Reads: January 2017 - The Surznick Common Room

Monday, January 30, 2017

Surznick Reads: January 2017

The first month of 2017 is already coming to a close, which is a bit hard to believe if you ask me. We have a lot of good books lined up for the year, but we had a bit of a slow start. We're going to keep up this feature anyway, even though we're showcasing less books than in years past. So without further ado, our first Surznick Reads of the new year!

Sarah's Reads!

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer
From "Like many young Americans, Jonathan Safran Foer spent much of his teenage and college years oscillating between enthusiastic carnivore and occasional vegetarian. As he became a husband, and then a father, the moral dimensions of eating became increasingly important to him. Faced with the prospect of being unable to explain why we eat some animals and not others, Foer set out to explore the origins of many eating traditions and the fictions involved with creating them. Traveling to the darkest corners of our dining habits, Foer raises the unspoken question behind every fish we eat, every chicken we fry, and every burger we grill. Part memoir and part investigative report, Eating Animals is a book that, in the words of the Los Angeles Times, places Jonathan Safran Foer 'at the table with our greatest philosophers.'"

I just read over Nick's review of this book from November and can find little to add that he hasn't already said. I've been thinking about 'Eating Animals' constantly since finishing it last week. Even as a vegetarian, much of what Foer outlined in this book was eye opening and new to me, from traditional animal husbandry to the sheer number of factory farmed animals per year. What sticks out to me the most is the extreme impact that the meat industry has on the environment (25% of global land use, land-use change, and forestry emissions are driven by beef production, including conversion of forests in the Brazilian Amazon.) 'Eating Animals' is now 7 years old and the Earth has been continuing to warm year after year. The meat industry isn't helping things get better, though there are more sustainable ways to eat meat. All in all, I'm not here to push a vegetarian agenda, but this is a book I would encourage everyone to read, vegetarian or not.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Nick's Reads!

Absolutely on Music: Conversations with Seiji Ozawa by Haruki Murakami
From "A deeply personal, intimate conversation about music and writing between the internationally acclaimed, best-selling author and the former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In Absolutely on Music, Haruki Murakami sits down with his friend Seiji Ozawa, the revered former conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, for a series of conversations on their shared passion: music. Over the course of two years, Murakami and Ozawa discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from Bartók to Mahler, and from pop-up orchestras to opera. They listen to and dissect recordings of some of their favorite performances, and Murakami questions Ozawa about his career conducting orchestras around the world. Culminating in Murakami’s ten-day visit to the banks of Lake Geneva to observe Ozawa’s retreat for young musicians, the book is interspersed with ruminations on record collecting, jazz clubs, orchestra halls, film scores, and much more. A deep reflection on the essential nature of both music and writing, Absolutely on Music is an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros."

I realize that to many people this book probably sounds like a total snooze. It's not. It is a bit tricky to explain, but the passion with which these two discuss music is infectious. Whether you're an orchestral music buff or not, anyone can get behind the conversation between renowned author and famous music conductor. They're funny, profound, and inspiring. I received this book as a gift from a friend, and it was the perfect gift - just two old guys geeking out together over a shared passion for music. Some of the more technical aspects of Ozawa and Murakami's discussions may be lost on some readers (and were certainly lost on me), but many of their overreaching themes and the discussion surrounding what it means to make true art was incredible. This is a great read. If you're looking for something inspiring that may be out of your normal reading zone, I definitely recommend this.

My rating: 4 stars

Here's to another month of good reading! We hope you are all enjoying some good books too. Share what you're reading with us below!

Sarah & Nick


  1. Love the recommendation for Eating Animals. I have to pick it up..heard so many good things about it.

    1. Thanks, Gretchen! Many of the stories about factory farming are tough to read, but I know as a vegan you'll find it super interesting and helpful!