Finding Ravioli and Other Book Recommendations

Last week I received an awesome surprise in the mail from one of my very favorite artists and bloggers, Karen Cole of Artsortments (and I’m not just saying that because her self-portrait from her college days could’ve been done of P’s sister Pina):

Grazie mille Karen!

That’s a copy of Laura Schenone’s The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken: A Search for Food and Family underneath Karen’s card, which shows one of her assemblage sculptures she made while in Cortona in 2006. Isn’t it gorgeous?

FYI, I’m loving the book so far; I’m only a couple chapters in, but I’m relating to so much of what Schenone went through in her search for family heritage vis Γ  vis Genovese ravioli–from the basic lack of interest on the part of her American family to her pilgrimage to the Old Country.

Grazie mille Karen!

I’m also reading two other books that were sent to me by She Who Blogs blogging buddies:

In the Land of God and Man by Silvana Paternostro

from Karina of Candid Karina and Creative Karina


Resistance by Anita Shreve

from Qualcosa di Bello of Piacere, Write Away, Dog Blog, and Snap 366.

These books are both *fantastic* reads (as are those blogs–check ’em out!). It’s taking me a while to get through all these books just for lack of spare time, but I’m truly savoring every stolen moment I have with them.

I can’t thank my book fairies enough–as I’ve mentioned a few times, English-language books are just not easy to come by around here.

But I even have an Italian-language book fairy! Back for my birthday Shelley of At Home in Rome sent me the Italian version of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (L’Alchimista), which I finished last week.

Ya’ll I read the WHOLE thing. In Italian! And it took me well under a year! Woohoo!

Plus? I *loved* it. I can’t wait to read the English version now too.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

And what are you reading now?

Come on! This is as close as I get to browsing through a bookstore these days.

23 Beans of Wisdom to “Finding Ravioli and Other Book Recommendations”
  1. vanessa

    Yes i totally sympathise with your lack of book stores situation. I rely on ones people send me or those stockpiled on trips overseas.

    i am pretty sure I have the alchemist (in english) here. But i can’t find it. Oh well, I probably lent it to someone else, otherwise you could have read it. It’s written in very plain language and only takes a few hours to read. Perfect for a train trip….

    The books I am reading at present are:
    Reading Lolita in Tehran; a memoir in books by Azar Nafisi (kindly donated by another expat)
    and Paul Ginsborg’s Italy and it’s discontents 1980 -2001.
    Both of them are excellent reads, if somewhat heavy! Vanessa

    No worries on The Alchemist; I think Cherrye has a copy. And I had a feeling it was very simply written since the Italian was really easy for me–I definitely recommend this one as a starter Italian book (intermediate level, of course) πŸ˜‰

    Both of your current reads sound great. Think you’ll be finished by Friday? πŸ˜‰

  2. 02.19.2008

    Unfortunately I’m a serial book-starter – so I have about 15 books with bookmarks in, piled high on my bedside table.

    But here’s a few of them:
    – 5 of them are about the history and geography of York – because I’m doing research prior to building a website that is a series of tours around my home city.
    – Alain de Botton’s toe-curlingly gorgeously written and thought-provoking ‘The Architecture Of Happiness’
    – a very dog-eared and yellowed Pelican classic from 1937 entitled ‘The Great Victorians – 1’

    And more besides. One day I’ll settle down and read one book at a time, but right now I’m too loose & fast…..

    On a side note, I’m curious about something. Michelle, do you ever read and/or have an opinion on the expat-in-Italy books that are so popular in the UK and presumably the US at the moment? Such as books by Annie Hawes? (Apologies if you’ve blogged on this before).

    Mikeachim’s last blog post..β€œNot sure what I’d do with a notebook other than swat flies.” – Bernard Cornwell

    Oh I hear you Mike, although I usually only get up to 5 or 6 started before I’ll buckle down on one. Sometimes. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with loose and fast I say!

    “The Architecture of Happiness” intrigues me in particular….

    Anyway, about the expat-type books, it’s an excellent question, and I did mention this once in a post in response to a reader question. Check out Number 5 (where I talk about one of Annie Hawes’ book in particular):

    Answering Your Questions: Italy Edition

    No apology needed though πŸ˜‰

  3. 02.19.2008

    When I met my Paolo in Qatar, we compared books that we had with us. Him- The Alchemist in Italian, Me-The Alchimist in English.

    Maggie’s last blog post..Change in plans…

    Huh. How bout that?!

  4. 02.19.2008

    Since arriving in Italy I have read compulsivly through all the book we brought with us. I am hoping all our visitor will bring some new titles with them.
    At the moment I am reading “Freakonomics” (I know that it was all the rave like years ago, but I found it recently on a trip to Milan!), “Run” the new Ann Patchet’s book, which is really good, and “Arrivederci Piccole Donne” by Marcela Serrano in ITALIAN -I have the spanish version at hand to help me out.
    I visited the Sisterhood of the Traveling Books, what a great idea! I registered, thanks for the tip.

    Beatriz’s last blog post..Sleep

    Happy to hear you’ve joined the Sisterhood! I’ve been curious about the new Ann Patchett book–can’t wait to see your final review πŸ˜‰ Also, yes, books are always welcome from guests here as well!

  5. aarthilal

    I’m a big Paulo Coelho’s fan and I don’t know if you heard about his blog
    I’ve started as a fan and now I’m collaborating with him and thought that you would like to enter his universe.
    Check the blog.
    if you want, or subscribe to his newsletter
    You’ll see a community of warriors of light sharing ideas, dreams and most importantly following their personal legend.


    Everything on the face of the earth is constantly being transformed because the Earth is alive and has a soul.
    (The Alchemist)

    Have a nice day!


    Thanks Aart; no I hadn’t checked out the blog, but I will πŸ™‚

  6. 02.19.2008

    Wow! A whole book in Italian….what a testament to your language skills. I am reading *Too Much Tuscan Sun*, which is also available in Italian….but I don’t think I am quiet ready yet for a whole book in Italian….maybe someday πŸ™‚

    My Melange’s last blog post..Our Newest Addition

    I haven’t read that yet, but I’ve seen it around. I definitely recommend “L’Alchimista” when you’re ready for something in Italian; it’s pretty easy actually once you get some vocab behind you.

  7. 02.19.2008

    I’m still waiting on the Last Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken… three more holds ahead of me at the library! Just finished reading Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal], which was interesting and very well done but left me feeling kind of queasy. I’m still trying to figure out what I think about it.

    Currently on my nightstand is Pablo Neruda’s Memoirs, which is a more unambiguous pleasure, and I’m looking forward to picking up The Dud Avocado today!

    anno’s last blog post..Rambling Notes About Art

    Ooh a book with a queasy effect. Interesting. I’m definitely intrigued! I love Pablo Neruda, his poetry at least; I imagine his memoirs are just as fascinating. I haven’t heard of The Dud Avocado though. I’ll have to look it up–great title πŸ™‚

  8. A friend gave me Philip Roth’s “I Married a Communist” in Italian. I don’t think I am ready for that challenge yet. πŸ™‚

    I am in the middle of three right now.

    Francesco’s Venice. Great photos and very interesting.

    Gomorrah by Roberto Saviano (the English version). Very scary.

    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (I really need to finish this)

    nyc/caribbean ragazza’s last blog post..An apartment in Rome.

    OK Philip Roth has the power to confuse me in English; good luck with the Italian πŸ˜‰ I’ve been wanting to read Cholera forever. Might even be on my Amazon wishlist. I can’t wait to check out all these recommendations!

  9. 02.19.2008

    Oh thank you for this post and “the sisterhood of traveling books”, link. I have been thinking along the lines of trying to start something like that and am very happy to join in on someone elses effort, that is when I can justify that I have enough of my “to do” list done and then I can reward myself. Brava Michelle brava, for reading in Italian, brava!

    Grazie! I’m pretty proud of myself too–I set a goal of reading 5 books in Italian this year…I’m still on schedule!

    And I’m so happy you’ve joined the Sisterhood; a lot of us are in Italy, actually, and that seems to help the books get around more “safely” with Poste Italiane πŸ˜‰

  10. 02.19.2008

    As for books, I’m gearing up to read Kristin Hannah’s “Firefly Lane” as soon as I finish the book I’m currently reading…Jane Porter’s “Flirting With Forty.”

    I must say that your note about the ravioli struck a chord with me. The moment I even saw the word I suddenly could taste my grandma’s family recipe for homemade ravioli (and it’s only 7:15am!) — something I’ve NEVER attempted to make, I might add. Well, aside from assisting her long ago, but that doesn’t really count. I have the ravioli rolling pin and even a handheld ravioli stamp, but alas, neither have ever even touched dough. I’m still attempting to master her meatball recipe, so maybe it’s time I add in the ravioli, as well. You’ve inspired me without even meaning to! πŸ™‚

    Christina Arbini’s last blog post..Danger, Plot Holes Ahead!

    Awesome Christina! Do it! And then post about it! You’d really like the Lost Ravioli Recipes book I think–I imagine you’d relate to it even more since your family is from the North πŸ™‚

  11. 02.19.2008

    That ravioli book sounds fantastic – I’m a short Path train ride from Hoboken myself.
    So nice to see the sistahs πŸ˜‰ are keeping you in reading material.
    We have a great groups of ladies.
    Much bloglove,

    Frances’s last blog post..hayden planetarium, manhattan, new york

    Indeed we do Frances πŸ™‚

  12. ally bean

    Oddly enough I just finished The Leopard, an Italian book that I read in English. It is the story of an Italian prince and his family from 1860 to 1910, and the effect that Garibaldi’s revolution has on the Prince’s life and standing within the community. I found the book to be very interesting because I learned some history and because I was fascinated by the way in which the Prince understands and adapts to the new realities. It was a different kind of book for me to read and I enjoyed it immensely. However, my next selection will be a bit lighter– to let my brain rest after all that learning.

    Ally I’ve been meaning to read this *forever*; I have to get my hands on a copy in either language πŸ˜‰

  13. 02.19.2008

    I loved “The Alchemist!” I really like Paulo Coelho’s writing. He’s so inspiring!

    Right now my reading is kind of scattered. I’m still trying to post about a great book that I finished a few months ago called “A Clearing In The Distance. ” It’s about the life of Frederick Law Olmstead.

    I recently started reading Barack Obama’s book “The Audacity of Hope.” And I’m also reading a collection of stories and poems written by fellow bloggers called “Blogger’s Delight.” The book covers are all on my blog. Hopefully I’ll start making more progress on all of these! ; )

    Anali’s last blog post..Shameless Self-Promotion

    I definitely want to read Obama’s book…and what’s this Blogger’s Delight? Sounds lovely! I’ll be over to check things out πŸ™‚

  14. 02.19.2008

    Have you checked out ? You can make wish lists, read other people’s reviews and share the books you have read with others.

    Two books I read last year that were wonderful were “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini. These two books have stayed with me for a long time.

    I would be more than happy to pass along some books to you…mandami un e-mail via il mio blog e ne parlermo un po.

    Italianissima’s last blog post..At least they know

    Yes, I’m on GoodReads too, although I’m not nearly as active as I’d like to be. I’ve heard such great things about the two books you mentioned; I think I’m on the waiting list for the Hosseini book over at the Sisterhood. Anyway, you’ll be hearing from me πŸ™‚

  15. 02.19.2008

    I’m craving pasta now…we should go out and eat Italian tonight…

    Like Christina above, next up that I want to read is Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah. Right now I’m reading a book on photoshop…Always looking for new tricks.

    kacey’s last blog post..Freak Snow Storm

    Oh fun! I hope you’ll share any new tricks you learn πŸ™‚

  16. 02.19.2008


    D brought me Coelho’s “La strega di Portobello” from Venezia when she went this year…

    At the time I was struggling through “Gomorra” so I decided to keep going with that rather than an English novel in translation.

    I totally recommend “Il gattopardo,” though I’ve only read that one in English. With your trip to ******* coming up, though, it would certainly be a propos..

    Paolo’s last blog post..The triumph of Kultur

    Shh…it’s still top secret! Anyway I hope we find time to stroll around some bookstores; I have some marked off on the map πŸ™‚ I definitely want to read more Coelho now, that’s for sure.

  17. 02.19.2008

    I love Paulo Coehlo! I need to get that one. He has some great life wisdom, and a way of making it unforgettable. Good reading-advice, as always! πŸ™‚

    Waiting for Zufan’s last blog post..The body on the sidewalk

    Oh you will *love* The Alchemist if you like great life wisdom πŸ™‚

  18. 02.20.2008

    Hey there. I love Anita Shreve’s books. I’ve read *almost* all of them. Right now I’m reading The Other Boleyn Girl by Phillippa Gregory before I see the film. Big, big, big, Coelho fan here. I’ve read all of his work except the Alchemist, which I’m saving for my trip to England in April. I saved the best for last.

    bella’s last blog post..just because

    This is my first Anita Shreve and I love it. I only wish I had more time to devote to it! I’ve been wanting to read The Other Boleyn girl too. Plus…woohoo! England!

  19. 02.20.2008

    I just finished The Whole World Over, which is by Julia Glass, the author of Three Junes, which I read earlier this month. Both were very good. Before that it was Pomegranate Soup…I think you’d like that, it’s got some tasty looking Iranian recipes in it.
    I’m currently reading Earthly Pleasures, about life in heaven and on earth…the first few pages were hilarious, but I’m not sure if the rest of the book will live up to the beginning. But it should be a quick read. After that, it’ll be The Glass Castle.
    I’ve been trying to read Ines of My Soul, but I think I’ve given up. I’m at the point where I cringe when I look at the book.

    softdrink’s last blog post..The Whole World Over

    What a line-up you have! I hate when a book makes me cringe, but it’s happened. Very sad day.

  20. 02.20.2008

    I’m so glad you are enjoying that book and that it got there safely. I used to juggle a few books all at once too, but now with blogging and stuff, my reading time is much more limited, so if I get through one or two books a month, I’m happy. I do “read” audio books as well though, so that ups my count a bit! πŸ˜‰

    Currently I’m readind a few fluff pieces, a Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel and a chick lit in audio form, but next in line is a Jodi Picoult novel (The Pact)…I have to go from heavy to light and back again, it seems!

    And thanks for the link love!

    Karina’s last blog post..American Idol Recap – Week 1 – The Boys

    I go back and forth between heavy and light too–and yes, reading time is definitely at a minimum these days unfortunately. Wonder if we could petition to put more hours in the day πŸ˜‰

  21. Lilian

    I’m a bit late commenting on this post, but being a bibliophile, I couldn’t pass it up. I hadn’t heard (or read) of the first two books you mentioned; thanks, and please do post a review (or at least brief opinion) when you’re done reading them. I haven’t read anything by Coelho or Shreve, though they both receive a fair amount of press (and consequently seem to have quite a following) here in the U.S. Most of the time I am reading books by the long-dead–that is, books from the last three centuries rather than the current one. I rarely consider reading a just-published book (cookbooks excepted), and prefer musty, shadowy secondhand bookshops to sparkly-clean ones selling “new” books.

    That said, I’m currently reading Apsley Cherry-Garrard’s classic account of Scott’s doomed polar expedition, “The Worst Journey in the World.” After that, in preparation for the Continental Divide Trail–the bottom half of which I will be hiking this coming summer; I hiked the top half this past year–I will be reading John McPhee’s “Rising from the Plains,” about the geology of the Rockies. (And McPhee still lives!)

    Are you much into reading literary journals or political magazines? I’ve been reading “Granta” (a British quarterly of fiction, nonfiction, and photography; no poetry!) and “The Nation” (the American, leftist weekly) for years and recommend both.

    Lilian, I love your reading list–“The Worst Journey” sounds particularly intriguing. I haven’t read much of literary journals or political magazines, but that’s mainly due to lack of access; I’m sure I could get into them, particularly “The Nation.”

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  22. 02.21.2008

    I’m a big Anita Shreve fan too.
    Painfully true stories, terribly poignant and insightful. Beautifully constructed, if not usually *happy*, endings….

    Mikeachim’s last blog post..Oh, and….

    This is my first Shreve book, but I’m loving it so far.

  23. 02.22.2008

    Hey there,

    Just got back. Haven’t had much time.

    Glad that you enjoyed your package. It was my pleasure.

    Thanks for the kind words. πŸ™‚

    Loved the chicken story. Wasn’t in town for that.

    I’m reading “What is the What?”. I’m loving it.


    Karen Cole’s last blog post..EXPLORE DREAM DISCOVER

    Ooh, What is the What? sounds interesting….

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

Calabria Guidebook

Calabria travel guide by Michelle Fabio



Homemade apple butter
Green beans, potatoes, and pancetta
Glazed Apple Oatmeal Cinnamon Muffins
Pasta with snails alla calabrese
Onion, Oregano, and Thyme Focaccia
Oatmeal Banana Craisin Muffins
Prosciutto wrapped watermelon with bel paese cheese
Fried eggs with red onion and cheese
Calabrian sausage and fava beans
Ricotta Pound Cake