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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Labor of Love

Guest Blogger: Chris Manganaro

Obsession is most often seen as something bad. Sometimes it is hard to completely understand someone else's obsession because we simply do not share it with them. It can be tough on everyone involved when obsession takes over.
In William Alexander's book 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust, the reader is witness to the obsession of one man and one bread. William wants to try and replicate the perfect bread that he once tasted by baking a loaf of bread a week for one year, hence the title of 52 Loaves. Bread quickly becomes his obsession as he dedicates as much time as possible to this new pursuit.
Due to the author's wit, the book is able to keep from getting stale like day old bread. Broken down into weekly increments for chapters, he doesn't dwell on anything for too long and does his best to inject humor even into the more informative sections of the book. Some moments are more funny than others, but overall it is a humorous year in the life. It is likely that the reader would not have wanted to live with William, though.
As the reader finds with baking bread, it is the little things that are important. Small details really add to the charm of this book. At certain points he puts a little notation of his current weight as well as the weight of his bookshelf. This gives the reader a look into the changes which occur over the course of a year. Another wonderful idea which adds humor and more insight into the authors thought process is the use of footnotes. These often lead to laughter. William also gives you a lot to think about in this book. It is split up into sections that won't make sense to some readers until later in the book. It really comes together as a labor of love.
William does include some recipes and tips at the end of the book in order to help the home baker. Something to keep in mind; however, is that this does not make it a cookbook. You may find what he has listed to be useful in some way, though. Perhaps that little bit is just enough. It was for him. There is also an index of books that he suggests for those interested in bread making listed after the recipes. It seems likely that he wanted to give aspiring bakers something to nibble on.
Trying to understand another person's obsession may not always be possible and William's book may or may not convince all of its readers either. While many people can understand the importance of bread, the meanings and lessons he learns may not appeal to everyone. His adventure is unique just like each individual loaf he baked to find the perfect one. This book is worth reading for anyone who has ever enjoyed any kind of bread. Maybe it tells you more than you want to know and maybe it won't make you enjoy bread any more than you already do, but you will enjoy learning something new about your daily bread. 

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