Monday, January 17, 2011

Book Review: 52 Loaves

I stayed up late last night reading 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander. I actually started reading this book a couple of weeks ago, but due to illness and other things it got set aside. I finished reading it this morning and I have spent all day trying to decide what I thought about it. Certainly, it is an engaging and fun story full of interesting facts. I was charmed by its weaving of monastic life into the life of bread, for I am fascinated by all things monastic. It is also quite probable that I will try to reproduce his recipe at some point.

Yet, there is something that irritates me about this book. Mr. Alexander goes to great lengths to show that he feels that there is something honest and true about a loaf of bread, but his contempt for those that do not see bread the way he does is palatable. The right and true way is his way, i.e. the way of those with more sophisticated tastes than say a judge at a state fair.

Don’t get me wrong, he is right, good bread is hard to find. Walk through any grocery store bread aisle and you will find an unappetizing blend of chemicals and fake bread smell. And sadly most bakery bread is only slightly better. People from all walks of life realize this and are trying to make good bread at home. Yet he constantly shows despair for home bakers. This really grates on me, possibly because I am a home baker.

It is possible that he is overstating his position for comic effect. It is also possible that I am just taking it all too seriously. Then again maybe I am just tired of reading about the “simple life” fantasies of people who can afford to fly to France for a couple of weeks at a time. Read the book and take up your position.


  1. An elaborate review, very interesting to read - even if I can feel how disappointed you are by the author's spelling style. I guess you would rate it only with 2 or 3 out of five stars, wouldn't you?

    Don't get discouraged by his intolerance when making your own good bread! It is of great value not to be dependent completely upon the industrially produced bread, so enjoy to be a home baker!

  2. The main annoyance is that he is a home baker too. I think I would give it 3 stars. It is a good book, it just annoyed me.