What’s On Your Nightstand: Antonia Murphy

What's On Your Nightstand-From Left to Write

The currently view outside my office is snow covered sidewalks and cars so I’m looking forward to escaping the cold with Antonia Murphy’s memoir Dirty Chick:Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer. Why? Because she lives in New Zealand, where it’s currently summer (and probably gorgeous). Today Antonia shares her recent reads and the books sitting on her warm, summery nightstand.

Antonia Murphy

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel: Probably the best book I’ve read in months, it’s a powerful post-pandemic dystopia read. Kirsten, the protagonist, travels through the ruined wasteland of the former United States and Canada, performing Shakespeare to survivors. The tattoo on her forearm reads “Survival is Insufficient,” which just gives me chills—it’s so true.  (Editor’s note: Station Eleven was on my top ten books of 2014)
The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace by Jeff Hobbs: How did this brilliant young man, who managed to go from the poverty of Newark to a molecular biology degree at Yale, end up dealing dime bags in the ‘hood?  I kept thinking about how the scars of childhood shape our decisions as adults. It’s practically Shakespearean: is he drawn inexorably toward a destiny he can’t control, or did he make a series of foolish choices?
This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper: I’m about halfway through this one. Why do I love stories of people being hideous to each other? Maybe because they’re so funny while they do it. This book has everything: testicles on fire, poop at the dinner table, vulgar boob jobs— it’s hilarious.


Dirty Chick by Antonia Murphy

Make sure you Antonia’s memoir Dirty Chick:Adventures of an Unlikely Farmer to your reading list. When San Francisco native Antonia Murphy and her husband uprooted themselves to raise a family on a farm in rural New Zealand, she dreamed of living as many of her neighbors’ forebears had done for centuries: raising livestock, growing their own food, and making cheese and wine. But through such misadventures as wrangling a rogue dairy cow, attempting to impregnate a goat, and carrying animal poop in her purse, she began to realize how unprepared she really was—but still, she soldiered on. With her sassy charm and hilarious outlook, there’s not a dull moment in Antonia’s story.

More about the author: Antonia Murphy is an award-winning magazine journalist, author and adventurer.  Her short stories, essays and travelogues have appeared in Sail magazine, Cruising World and Latitude 38. Since graduating from Columbia University with a degree in European History and Comparative Politics, Antonia has earned her living as a doll designer, union stagehand, Internet geek, and yacht chef.  She spent three years managing the Young Performers Theatre in San Francisco, where she taught playwriting and storytelling to children ages 3-14. She has also backpacked across Central America, chopped peppers for Thomas Keller, broken down sets for Aerosmith and run a youth hostel at the bottom of the world.

Raised in San Francisco, Antonia has lived and worked in various countries, from New York to Rome, Villefranche-Sur-Mer to Invercargill.  She now lives and writes in Whangarei, New Zealand, with her husband Peter and their children, Silas and Miranda. For more about Antonia and her life on the farm, visit her site.

Antonia is also on TwitterFacebook, and Tumblr.

8 Droolworthy Novels For Foodies

8 Droolworthy Novels For Foodies via From Left to Write

I love all things food. I love the process of it all: grocery shopping, cooking, and eating. I especially love reading novels about food and cooking because give me plenty of recipe inspiration. Not to mention they make me wish for a comforting bowl of beef stew or a nice glass of red wine.

Warning: make sure you have plenty of snacks before reading any of these books. Even better, make one your next book club read and serve food inspired by the recipes in the novel!

8 Droolworthy Novels For Foodies

Delicious! by Ruth Reichl: Famous restaurant critic has beautifully captured the food mecca that is New York City. West coaster Billie Breslin has an amazing talent: with just a few tastes, she can name all the ingredients used (or missing) from a dish. Instead of using her skill in her passion for baking, she forgoes any sort of cooking to work as assistant to the editor of Delicious! magazine. Just as she gets settled in, the magazine is abruptly shuttered. She takes a lonely job of maintaining the magazine’s hotline in order to pay her bills. Reichl’s vivid descriptions made me wish I could hop the next train up to New York for my food pilgrimage.

Chocolat by Joanne Harris: Yes, both the chocolate and Johnny Depp are incredibly drool worthy in the movie version. But if you haven’t read the book, you’re missing out. Harris beautifully weaves magic and whimsy with plenty of decadent chocolate to draw out the small villages’ dreams and desires. Definitely buy that box of chocolates before you cozy up with this novel.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen: A blend of food and magic, the novel explores two women who lives are opposite of the other. Josey escapes by reading romance novels and eating junk food in her closet. The town’s bad girl mysteriously shows up and starts living in her closet and Della Lee turns Josey’s life upside down. One more thing, Della Lee refuses to leave Josey’s closet. Each chapter is named for Josey’s favorite sweets, so make sure you stock up on some chocolate bars before reading!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister: My friend Erin of Read-at-Home Mama recommended this book to me. Every month, students gather at Lillian’s restaurant  for her cooking class. They each have struggles outside the kitchen: a new mother struggling with her new identity, an Italian immigrant adapting to American life, a young widower among others. As they slice, chop, and stir in class, they students discover more than a delectable dish to fill up their bellies.

 Vanity Fare: A novel of lattes, literature, and love by Megan Caldwell:  Who doesn’t love a book about classic literature and food? Newly single, Molly starts her culinary writing career by penning luscious descriptions for New York’s newest, soon-to-be hot bakery. It was supposed to be a simple job, but she soon finds herself the center of attention of two men. This fun, witty novel will make you wish for flaky croissants and decadent danishes.

The Naughty Girls Book Club by Sophie Hart: With her suburban bakery cafe ailing, Estelle starts a book group in order to gain more customers. The first meeting falls flat as the strangers attempt to discuss classics. Before her new customers bolt, she suggests an erotica book club instead. Don’t let the title fool you. This novel isn’t about blindfolds and chains. You’ll fall in love with each book club member as they rediscover themselves in the process. And Estelle’s baked goods are to die for–if only paper tasted as good as her muffins.

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy: One of our past virtual book club selections, this novel has stuck with me. There’s story behind every pastry. That’s what freelance writer Reba discovers when she visits Elsie’s German Bakery. Reba discovers Elsie’s life before she immigrated to the United States. Elsie was a young German struggling to survive at the end of World War II. Over coffee and handmade baked goods, Reba finds answers she didn’t even know she was looking for.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: I couldn’t create a list of drool worth books without including this classic. Tita, the youngest daughter in a Mexican family, is fated to remain unmarried in order to take care of her mother. She’s not allowed to marry her love Pedro. Instead, he marries her older sister in order to be near Tita. While Tita can only love him from a far, she imbues every dish she makes with her current emotions. Everyone who eats it can feel the love and passion (or distress) she cooks into her food. After you read the book, make sure you watch the (steamy) movie version!

Post image adapted from photo by David Leggett via Creative Commons.

Book Club Discussion: If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie

If I Fall If I Die FL2W Book Club Banner

It’s book club discussion time for our first pick of 2015: If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie (Hogarth). In the novel Will is a young boy who lives in two worlds: Outside and Inside. Due to his mother’s severe agoraphobia, he’s lived Inside for most of his life. So what happens when breaks the […]

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Review: Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm

An immensely satisfying novel filled with stolen art, love, lies, and changing identities. I was sure what to expect when I picked up Unbecoming by Rebecca Scherm. I was promised intrigue, lies, and an unreliable narrator. Thanks to the popularity of Gone Girl, unreliable narrators have popped up in too many books. However, Unbecoming draws you in from the very […]

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Writing Advice From Best Selling Authors

writing advice from bestselling authors

  Have you ever read an amazing first line or mouthwatering description and thought, “Wow. I wish I could write like that.”? It’s not just me, right? Now you can write like those best selling authors. Well, sort of. Take a look at Biographile for their newest series Write Start, where Andy Weir,  Brad Taylor, Tess Gerritsen, […]

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10 Must Read Speculative Fiction Novels

10 Must Read Speculative Fiction Novels via From Left to Write

  I fell in love with science fiction back in middle school thanks to Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury, and Margaret Atwood. I’ve always had a thing for alternate reality and post-apocalyptic novels, but I didn’t realize there was a name for it: speculative fiction. The term is attributed to author Robert Heinlein and is defined as “any […]

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