Read: after reading a review in Library Journal’s list of Best Audio Books of 2009
Rating: 7 out of 10 (finished 3/17/10)
Synopsis: Outgoing New York Times restaurant critic Bruni admits he was even a baby bulimic in his extraordinary memoir about a lifelong battle with weight problems. To his Southern Italian paternal grandmother, food equaled love. Cooking and parenting from Old World traditions, she passed these maternal and culinary principles on to her WASP daughter-in-law, whose own weight struggles her son eventually inherited. Through adolescence, puberty and into college, Bruni oscillated from gluttonous binges to adult bulimia, including laxative abuse. Vocationally, journalism called, first through the college paper, then a progression of internships and staff positions in Detroit and New York, including his stints as a Bush campaign reporter in 2000 and as the Times Rome correspondent. In tandem, Bruni’s powerlessness over his appetite developed from cafeteria meals to Chinese delivery binges to sleep eating. While Bruni includes such entertaining bits as the campaign trail seen through Weight Watcher lens and ample meals from his years as the Times restaurant critic, in the end, his is a powerful, honest book about desire, shame, identity and self-image.
Overall Impression: I’ve decided that I eat healthier when I am reading books about food. It was like that with both of Michael Pollan’s books I’ve read — In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma (review) — as well as Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver (review), among others. While those books made a point of what one should eat, Born Round did a good job (at least in the first 2/3 of the book) of telling what one probably shouldn’t eat. Three hamburgers, for example — especially if the eater is 18 months old. Or an adult, for that matter.
This was another book that I really liked but couldn’t say I loved. I don’t think I ever became full invested in Bruni’s story. For most of the book, he was ten or so pounds overweight. You’d think from the writing that this was a hundred pounds. Later, yes, he gains a significant and troubling amount of weight. But it felt a little dramatic (which, I think, was probably part of the truth — he struggled with his weight as much mentally as he did physically) to be so obsessed over ten pounds. But I found the whole of it very interesting, especially the parts about how he handled the job of NYT food critic. The descriptions of some of the horribly extravagant meals made me feel like I was ingesting calories by simply listening to the book! And I also loved his family, especially his mother and grandmother. They added so much dimension to the story and made it seem possible that Bruni could put away so much food as a kid.
I wonder if there are photos in the print version of the book. While I was listening, I kept thinking that photos would have made the book better. I mean, just how round was this guy?
Pros: Very raw in places — he admits a lot that must have been very difficult to write; the tone of the book is perfect for its subject matter — funny, self-depricating, and truthful.
Cons: It was a little too woe-is-me in places.
Other books I’ve read by Frank Bruni: none
Other books narrated by Frank Bruni: none
Other blogger reviews: none (Have you read and reviewed this? Let me know and I’ll link you!)