Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Cooking & Food

This Twain-Food mash up is the perfect path backwards into some amazing American food lore. A medley of nostalgia, gratitude and history, Beahrs uses Twain’s culinary laments and loves as a prism to analyze the American table’s past, present and future. Funny, smart, caustic in a way only Twain could be and, ultimately, a hopeful call to the reclamation and preservation of both American landscapes and food-ways. -Shannon


The Geometry of Pasta by Caz Hildebrand, Jacob Kenedy

I love this book for so many reasons! Visually, the contrast of black-and-white with the variety of shapes scattered over the page is so appealing. Learning the etymology of the pasta is fascinating (maccherone probably stems from the makaria or “food of the blessed”), but at its heart this is a great cookbook. Browsing the pages is inspiring—matching the sumptuous pasta with an equally delectable sauce is sublime, delicious fun! -Holly


Gastronomical Me by M.F.K. Fisher

Fisher, always delightful and amusing, takes us from her childhood in California circa 1912 to France then Switzerland and finally to Mexico, recounting her awakening to food and drink. Her culinary experiences are emotional ones: she savors the people, places and milieus as much as what is on the plate. She tells of her first Oyster (a blue tip), her encounters with French cuisine and local wines in Dijon, the tribulations of sea travel, and even the horrors of airplane food on a trip in the early days of commercial air travel. Any one who has not read her yet has a treat in store. -Pamela

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Like The Principles of Uncertainty, Maira’s new marvel is a collection of illustrated blog posts from The New York Times. And like her previous book, And the Pursuit of Happiness is full of joy, warmth, delight, wonder, gratitude and hope.

Each chapter, beginning with the January inauguration of Barack Obama, represents a month of Maira’s year-long quest to visit America’s historical landmarks. And the Pursuit of Happiness is a remarkable tribute to our nation, and an inspiration to be thankful, proud, and hopeful about our future. -Leah


Listen to This by Alex Ross (2010 Holiday Gazette)

New Yorker columnist Alex Ross collects nineteen of his best essays on music and sets them to shuffle, creating a chapter playlist that doesn’t reject genre so much as tune it out completely. Featured artists include Mahler and Pere Ubu, Schubert and Bob Dylan. Moments of Beethoven’s Eroica are compared to punk rock, and a sixteenth-century Spanish bass line becomes the common denominator between Bach and Led Zeppelin. Throughout, it is Mr. Ross’s eloquent prose and spirited musical curiosity that strings these disparate notes into a unified whole, making Listen to This a polyphonic treat for readers and listeners alike. -Matthew


This Is NPR: The First Forty Years by NPR, Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg

Nothing short of a who’s-who and what’s-what of National Public Radio, This Is NPR acts as a candid history, yearbook, scrapbook, memoir, timeline, and detailed analysis of your favorite radio phenomenon’s first forty years. This book includes fascinating stories about NPR’s inception in 1971 and its introduction of programs like All Things Considered and Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me alongside captivating photo spreads and reports of internationally groundbreaking events up through the close of 2009. With contributions from Cokie Roberts, Susan Stamberg, Noah Adams, Renée Montagne, Ira Flatow, and David Sedaris, just to name a few, This Is NPR is a treasure trove I wouldn’t dream of going without. -Dave


Ann Beattie: The New Yorker Stories by Ann Beattie(2010 Holiday Gazette)

Do you keep stacks of old unread or half-read magazines under your coffee table, or desk, or bed like I do? Or maybe in a nice wire or wicker rack in your bathroom? Do you growl when someone suggests that maybe the recycling bin could use some new reading material? If so, this book is for you, and for any fan of The New Yorker‘s excellent fiction.

Now, you can safely dump those old magazines without batting an eye because here, in chronological order, is every Ann Beattie story The New Yorker has ever published. I only wish they’d titled this wonderful collection Beattiesque. -Candra

Winter Recommendations – The Classics

With winter here you now have far more time to cozy up indoors with a good book. I have three recommendations of classics that I’d like to make…

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is set in early nineteenth century Russia. It spans fifteen plus years and has just over five hundred characters, most of whom have difficult to pronounce Russian names. My copy of the novel is 1,361 pages long. Now, I realize that, at first glance, these facts can be absurdly intimidating. Yet, my experience reading this novel was one of astonishment. Tolstoy has a way of rendering his characters into heartfelt individuals who deeply express every emotion. Often, they’re so vivid it’s as if they’re spitting water right in my face. Due to the novel’s time span, we get to see some young members of the Rostov family grow into adults (e.g. Natasha & Nicholas). No novel that I’ve read has done this as realistically as War and Peace; some change so much that, by book’s end, they become entirely different people.

Since the novel was originally written in Russian, I’d like to note who I believe to be its superior translators: Louise and Aylmer Maude. Both were close friends of Tolstoy’s and lived near him while in Russia. What their translation has to offer is a smooth, natural flow that does not compromise in its directness. Tolstoy himself said of their work, “Better translators could not be invented.”

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Herman Melville once commented that the day he first set foot on a whaling vessel was the day his life began. Moby Dick is a testament to his lively obsession with his new career. I found a cheap little paperback version of the novel that’s a score. Not only does it have Ahab’s mad whaling hunt for the vicious white whale, but it also has lots of fascinating historical anecdotes and criticisms. There are a number of letters Melville wrote around the publication of Moby Dick, a handful of which are addressed to Nathaniel Hawthorne. What I found most interesting—second to the novel itself—were the reviews written during Melville’s revival in 1921. Even the cover photo is discussed. It’s an engraving by Ambroise Louis Garneray—a whaling man himself!

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Joad family have one tough road ahead of them; they’re forced to leave everything behind in Oklahoma after drought and economic hardship set in. They sell off their farm, buy a beater car, pack up and head out west to California where there is talk of work. The difficulties they endure are severe. What struck me while reading this novel were the ways in which different members of the Joad family responded to their plight. Some cave in and ditch the family, while others stick it out even as conditions get worse. It is here that the men are separated from the boys. -Jake

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

*KAPOW* BAM! *ZAP!* Thrill your child with this colorful, eye-popping book that contains an electrifying superhero scene on every page. Who wouldn’t want that?!? *KABOOM!* -Hilary



Look Now: The World in Facts, Stats, and Graphics by DK Publishing

Do you want to learn about the physical aspects of the planet, about water, mountains, or climate change? Or are you more interested in the people of the planet and what their life expectancy is, or how much food they waste? Perhaps you want more information on how they govern or work. Whatever it is you want to know about our world, it is covered in this engaging and unusual reference book. A wonderful hybrid of encyclopedia and almanac, this visually appealing book will rope in young readers with its graphic style and then capture them with its fascinating presentation of facts. -Holly


The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Brian Selznick has taken his talent for drawing and his passion for story and created a breath-taking novel written for children. The story of an orphan who secretly tends to the clocks in a busy Parisian train station is a wonderful read-a-loud for little kids and big kids alike. Just take a peek at this lovely tome, and you, too, might just fall in love with Hugo Cabret. -Leighanne

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Pictorial Websters: A Visual Dictionary of Curiosities by John M. Carrera

A splendid book and a true delight to the eyes. Carrera found the tattered remains of an 1898 edition of Pictorial Websters under his grandfather’s chair and began the task of restoration. The finished product is a 400 page work filled with popular images of the mid 19th Century, using the original stamps, a linotype machine, and the aid of an army of bookbinders. For more on the book’s story please check this online video: An incredible book for the bibliophile, historian, or artist. -Alex


Microscripts by Robert Walser

In 1927, enigmatic Swiss writer Robert Walser began writing in a baffling set of tiny dots and scratches. Thought by many to be further evidence of his insanity, these ant-like pencil markings were actually an arcane, ultra-condensed Germanic script that allowed the author to write out entire stories on torn envelopes, small scraps of paper, the back of a business card. Microscripts collects twenty five of these pieces, presenting each work alongside a glossy, high-res facsimile of the handwritten draft from which it came. A beautiful book, a beautiful object. -Matthew


This slip-cased two-volume set features Lynd Ward’s stunning, Depression-era woodcut novels: wordless booklength stories told in bold, haunting black-and-white imagery. Each image is a visual tone poem in its own right, but in novel form they burst forth into morality plays, meditations, protests, and sagas. Edited and with an introduction by Art Spiegelman, who pays personal homage to the man considered to be the preeminent graphic novelist, these wordless novels showcase an unparalleled artist, craftsman, and storyteller. All the images reproduced are taken from prints pulled from the original woodblocks. This is a truly amazing collection. -Laurie

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak, Richard Pevear, Larissa Volokhonsky

Doctor Zhivago—a novel almost everyone has heard of, and almost no one has read—as now transported into a lively and vital English version for the first time—is a revelation. Not the political critique the Soviet Union feared and the West hoped in the depths of Cold War madness, nor the cloying love story Hollywood concocted, this is a strikingly original novel that defies categorization. Poetic, enigmatic, stirring, despairing, thoughtful, thought provoking, sweet, acerbic, inimical to posturing and delusion, Doctor Zhivago will haunt and taunt you long after you’ve turned the last page. This fine translation makes it clear that Pasternak deserves a place beside Tolstoy and Dostoevsky in the firmament of great Russian writers. If there was ever such thing as a must-read novel, this is it. -Peter


The Sherlockian by Graham Moore
“The game’s afoot!” Two parallel narratives: one recounting Arthur Conan Doyle’s hunt for a serial killer in Victorian London, the other following a present day investigation into the murder of a renowned Doyle expert, entwine into a rollicking and fun adventure. Mr. Moore certainly knows his Holmes and crafts his story along the lines of a Baker Street investigation. This is certainly the perfect gift for any Holmes enthusiast or anyone who likes a good, smart murder mystery. “‘Excellent!’ I cried. ‘Elementary’ said he.” -Jamil


Luka and the Fire of Life by Salman Rushdie (2010 Holiday Gazette)

Twelve-year-old Luka (younger brother of Haroun), along with his dog named Bear and his bear named Dog, must go on a quest in “the magic world” to save his storyteller father, who has fallen into a deep sleep. Luka is on a quest to steal “the fire of life” and save his father from certain death. As Luka makes his way in the magic world, he comes face-to-face with friendly and not-so-friendly mythical characters and creatures. This is an adventure story full of wonders and derring-do, told with Rushdie’s characteristic playfulness and wit. -Greg

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg

My artistic endeavors always felt more oops than Ah-ha! so I put away my crayons long ago. Beautiful Oops is the perfect message to my inner child; so now my missed stitches in my knitting are “pattern improvisation” and the fuzzy black-and-whites I have taken recently on my ancient 35mm camera are “my artistic interpretation!”

Children and adults release your artist within! Celebrate the Oops! -Holly


Star Wars: Millennium Falcon – A 3-D Owner’s Guide by Ryder Windham

Where does Han Solo sleep? When Chewbacca needs to wash his hair, where does he head to? Is there a bathroom? All of these thrilling questions and more are finally answered in this deck by deck tour of the most famous space ship in sci-fi history. –Rich


A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond and Peggy Fortnum

Paddington Bear has been charming readers since 1958 with his well-intentioned and impeccably mannered way of getting into whole heaps of trouble. In 2008 Michael Bond marked the 50th anniversary of the classic by releasing a brand new hardcover with illustrations by the original artist Peggy Fortnum. Containing all of the original stories, this is a fantastic introduction to the marmalade sandwich and cocoa loving bear. All that’s left to say is, “Pleas look after this bear. Thank you.” -Casey S.

Angry Robot Invades Elliott Bay

In the last couple of months the new international science fiction and fantasy imprint (recently obtained by Random House) Angry Robot Books has begun to roll out a vast catalog of new titles that booksellers and readers alike have been waiting to see on bookstore shelves for a year.

Based in the U.K., the imprint boasts an impressive stable of both established and new writers from around the globe, including the prolific British novelist and comic book writer Dan Abnett (Gaunt’s Ghost), popular Israeli fantasy writer Lavie Tidhar (The Bookman), South African journalist and screenwriter Lauren Beukes (Moxyland), U.S. novelist and publisher Chris Roberson (Book of Secrets), and Australian horror and fantasy writer Kaaron Warren (Slights), along with many others. Most of the newcomers are unknown to U.S. audiences but already have large followings of devoted science fiction and fantasy fans in their native countries.

Angry Robot already has a considerable list of paperback original books out in the U.S., with many more titles set to come out over the next few months.

Here are a just a few of the titles already on our bookshelves:


Triumff: Her Majesty’s Hero by Dan Abnett

Her Divine Majesty Queen Elizabeth XXX sits upon the throne. Great Britain’s vast Empire is run by Alchemy and Superstition.

Sir Rupert Triumff. Adventurer. Fighter. Drinker. Saviour? Pratchett goes swashbuckling in the hotly anticipated original fiction debut of the multi-million selling Warhammer star. Triumff is a ribald historical fantasy set in a warped clockwork-powered version of our present day…a new Elizabethan age, not of Elizabeth II but in the style of the original Virgin Queen. Throughout its rollicking pages, Sir Rupert Triumff drinks, dines and duels his way into a new Brass Age of Exploration and Adventure.


Moxyland by Lauren Beukes

A frighteningly persuasive, high-tech fable, this novel follows the lives of four narrators living in an alternative futuristic Cape Town, South Africa. An art-school dropout, an AIDS baby, a tech-activist and an RPG-obsessed blogger live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to Government Inc.—whatever the cost. Taking hedonistic trends in society to their ultimate conclusions, this tale paints anything but a forecasted utopia, satirically undermining the reified idea of progress as society’s white knight.


Winter Song by Colin Harvey

When his spaceship crashes on an unknown and forgotten planet, scientist Karl Allman discovers himself hunted by an ancient race. The descendants of earlier colonists have reverted to a savage tribal culture of sacrifice, pillage and violence. When Karl falls in love with an outcast girl, he has only one goal: escape. But escape is a distant dream on this nightmare planet.

Kell’s Legend (The Clockwork Vampire Chronicles, Book 1) by Andy Remic

It is a time for warriors, a time for heroes. Kell’s axe howls out for blood. The land of Falanor has been invaded by an albino army, the Army of Iron. A small group sets off to warn the king: Kell, a magnificent and brutal hero; his granddaughter, Nienna and her friend, Katrina; and Saark, the ex-Sword Champion of King Leanoric, disgraced after his affair with the Queen.

Fighting their way south, betrayal follows battle, battle follows deviation, and they are attacked from all quarters by deadly warriors, monstrous harvesters who drain blood from their victims to feed their masters. Ferocious fantasy from a real-life hardman come to claim the post-Gemmell world.

Continue reading

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple, Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka by Madhur Jaffrey

For the cultural cook on your gift list, Madhur Jaffrey has produced a lovely collection of simple recipes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.  There are stories to go along with every chapter and recipe, as well as bright colorful photos.  Try the Mushroom Bhaaji or the Lamb Korma in Almond-Saffron Sauce.  Yum!  Indian food is perfect for those cold winter evenings! -Hilary

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson
Chad Robertson’s life distilled: surf in the morning, bake amazing things in the afternoon. Enough said. Read this and live it. -Jamie


Pumpkin soup with green chilies and lime, pineapple empanadas, and many types of mole are just some of the delightful recipes to be found in Diana Kennedy’s Oaxaca al Gusto. Illustrated with maps, photographs of the region and its people, and illustrations of ingredients and finished dishes, this cookbook is a travelogue, a tribute to the area’s many fine cooks, and a sourcebook on the diverse regional cuisines of the state of Oaxaca. Diana Kennedy shares rich contextual information from her research and travels for each carefully chosen recipe, also providing information about cooking techniques and specific local ingredients. -Karen

Holiday Recommendations from Our Staff

Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventories, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists by Liza Kirwin

If you are a list maker or know a list maker—YOU MUST READ THIS BOOK! Check out the lists of some well known artists like Picasso, Alexander Calder, Jackson Pollock, Andrew Wyeth and others. Who knew we were in such great company? The beauty of handwritten lists—shopping lists, to-do lists, supply lists, places to see, books to read— shaping our lives and experiences. Scribbled, typed, illustrated, with stickers and stamps, a delightful journey through an utterly human obsession. -Seth


The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English by Roy Peter Clark

Once upon a time, the words glamour and grammar were sister and brother, etymological twins meaning a mastery over magic. This funny, enlightening book on grammar does—perhaps surprisingly—just what the title suggests: brings the magic back into our application of language. A must for language-lovers! -Leighanne


Odysseus, Robinson Crusoe, the Bounty mutineers, Napoleon Bonaparte, even Gilligan…the idea of far-flung islands has enchanted people for millennia. Here is a wonderful collection of lonely oceanic sentinels where you too might revel in solitude or suffer in terrified isolation. A joy to hold and behold, the maps are crisp and elegant, while the prose captures the essence of the place through literary, historical, or contemporary shadings, depending on the island. If cartography be theatrum orbis terrarum (the theater of the world), these isles are the impish Puck(s) of that stage! I’ve selected my island; which one is yours? -Jesse