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You and your true love are bound to be hungry after re-creating your personal environment. Author Ailene Eberhard has the perfect solution for hungry lovers in her cookbook, The Passionate Palate: A Celebration of Love and Food. As Eberhard says in her introduction, “nothing fans the fires of love like good food that is lovingly prepared and served with affection.” Divided into the seasons of the year, this delicious collection includes over 20 menus and nearly 150 easy-to-follow recipes for sumptuous meals guaranteed to woo the one you love. In addition to cooking instructions, Eberhard also includes advice and tips on how to bring fun and sensuality into your love life. Each section has a list of seasonal “Aphrodisiacs to Enhance Your Love Life.” Did you know that tomatoes are considered “love apples”? Or that seaweed will bring more lust to your lovemaking?

You and your true love are bound to be hungry after re-creating your personal environment. Author Ailene Eberhard has the perfect solution for hungry lovers in her cookbook, The Passionate Palate: A Celebration of Love and Food. As Eberhard says in her introduction, “nothing fans the fires of love like good food that is lovingly […]
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'Tis the season, yet again! Start the tarts, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, ice the cakes, prep the puddings, whip the meringue and get all the inspiration and advice you need from these sweet new cookbooks.

THE CRAFT OF BAKING
International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award winner Lisa Yockelson, a joyful and serious baker, shares her personal baking storybook in Baking Style: Art*Craft*Recipes. Instead of the usual header notes, she's written 100 essays to preface her recipes. In “Coconut Queen” she channels her grandma Lily’s kitchen, then offers up recipes for a Buttery Coconut Cake with Fluffy Frosting. “Fudge Griddled” leads to warm, fudgy waffles (definitely not for breakfast) served with dense, bittersweet chocolate cream. “Zoom!” introduces puffy, high-rise potato dough that serves as the basis for Gossamer Potato Rolls and Butter-Striated Potato Rolls, wonderful grace notes to any holiday meal. Yockelson’s instructions are extensive and the full-page color photos are almost edible. For bakers with some experience.

FOOD OF THE GODS
Choclatique is Ed Engoron’s ode to the substance he considers “truly the nectar of the gods,” divine at almost any temperature and “nature’s perfect food.” A passionate chocolatier, Engoron is the cofounder of the artisan chocolate company Choclatique. He’s traveled around the globe in pursuit of all things chocolate and now distills his love and knowledge in this collection of more than 150 recipes. All the recipes are based on five ganaches (a blend of chocolate, cream and flavorings), his universal chocolate building blocks. With those easy-to-make fundamentals under your belt, you can go on to create blueberry-poached Chocolate Dumplings, gluten-free Chocolate Curl Meringue Kisses, sultry Bittersweet Chocolate Tart, comforting White Chocolate Brioche Pudding and Chocolate Granola (what a way to start the day!). A must for chocoholics and those hoping to become addicted.

DIG INTO A HEALTHY DESSERT
Cooking Light, the longtime go-to source for healthier, lighter edibles of every sort, has for the first time gathered all the essential techniques for making lighter, healthier baked goods in one cookbook, Cooking Light Way to Bake. With more than 600 full-color, step-by-step photos, nothing is left to your imagination—it’s like having a baking coach right there in your own kitchen. Whatever you’re in the mood for—from yeast breads, quick breads, biscuits and biscotti to crepes, cookies, cakes, cupcakes, cobblers, custards and more—you’ll have the recipes you need, detailed instructions and great tips on what particular ingredients and equipment add to the mix. The secrets of light baking success are all here, for both baking beginners and flour-dusted old hands.

DUDE-FRIENDLY DESSERTS
I think most of us, if asked about the gender of cupcakes, would probably agree that the cute little things lean toward the ladylike. But if you take a look at what comes out of the oven in David Arrick’s Butch Bakery, now showcased in The Butch Bakery Cookbook, you’ll agree that these babies are muy macho and muy masculine—different, dangerously delicious and definitely “Desserts for Dudes.” The “Coffee Break” cupcake has a caffeinated, espresso- and Kahlua-infused body topped with a double shot of Espresso Buttercream. “Driller,” a maple cupcake, is sprinkled with crumbled, crispy Butch’s Bacon Bits. Dark stout (like Guinness) gives “Beer Run” its rich flavor, and Jack Daniel’s Cream Cheese Frosting jazzes up the big, beautiful Red Velvet “Defense Defense” cupcakes. Arrick calls his instructions a “plan of attack” and his ingredient list a roster. He starts guys out with Butch’s Toolbox and Butch’s Supply Cabinet, quick run-throughs of all the stuff you need to become a captain of cupcakes.

READY FOR THE PÂTISSERIE
Ginette Mathiot’s Je Sais Faire La Pâtisserie was first published in 1938, a few years after her fabulously successful Je Sais Cuisiner, which was published in English as I Know How to Cook in 2009. With The Art of French Baking, we now have her classic on classic French sweets and desserts, fleshed out with some necessary updates—and it’s just as straightforward and practical, helpful and comprehensive as its predecessor. Mathiot’s aim is to teach home cooks the elemental components of French baking—from traditional madeleines to rum-soaked babas; simple, light gâteaux to a show-stopping Paris-Brest; crumbly, buttery Sablés to Hazelnut Tuiles; Classic Brioche to caramel-swathed Floating Island. Allons enfants de la Pâtisserie! . . . It’s time to bake!

SWEET TREATS FOR VEGANS
Yes! You can make pies without dairy, eggs or animal products. In their third foray into vegan baking, Vegan Pie in the Sky, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero demonstrate that pies of all stripes, pie crusts (check out the new flaky Vodka Crust), tarts, cobblers, crisps and galettes—75 recipes in all—can indeed vie for a high place in vegan dessert-dom. For the upcoming holidays try the Voluptuous Pumpkin Pie, the Sweet Potato Cobbler, the Figgy Apple Handpies and the Pear & Cranberry Galette.

TOP PICK: AN INVITATION TO INDULGE
Judy Rosenberg, owner of one of Boston’s most popular bakery chains, won the IACP/Julia Child Cookbook Award for her first cookbook, Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed No-Holds-Barred Baking Book.Shethen followed it up with Rosie’s Bakery Chocolate-Packed, Jam-Filled, Butter-Rich, No-Holds-Barred Cookie Book. Now, she’s combined the two in a super-duper, updated and revised, no-holds-barred invitation to throw moderation to the wind: The Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter, Cream-Filled, Sugar-Packed, Baking Book. Indulge to your heart’s content with the beautiful building blocks of baking: butter, sugar, chocolate and cream. In addition to Chocolate Orgasms—deservedly her most famous dessert—and her almost-as-famous Chocolate-Sour Cream Cake Layers that morph into many divinely decadent variations (Caramel-Topped Pecan Cheesecake, White Chocolate Macadamia Brownies and Coconut Fluff Babycakes), you’ll find Pumpkin Whoopie Pies for an offbeat Thanksgiving treat; thin, spicy Jan Hagels; Classic Spritz; Molasses Ginger Cookies to offer Santa; and Ultra-Rich Rugalah for Hanukkah.

'Tis the season, yet again! Start the tarts, roll out the dough, cut the cookies, ice the cakes, prep the puddings, whip the meringue and get all the inspiration and advice you need from these sweet new cookbooks. THE CRAFT OF BAKINGInternational Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) award winner Lisa Yockelson, a joyful and serious […]
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New wine books used to be a holiday staple, but these days, wine talk has been replaced by sophisticated (and occasionally cultish) culinary chat, haute beer debates and retro cocktail repartee–all easily indulged tastes when it comes to your gift list.

TOUR THE TABLE
Though playful in tone, and packed with the wordplay that (among other critical tropes) he both tweaks and enjoys, Adam Gopnik’s The Table Comes First: Family, France, and the Meaning of Food is no mere “The Man Who Ate Everything and Then Considered It Philosophically.” It is more a sort of literate confessional, a series of meditations on cooking and, inevitably, consuming. Locavores, carnivores, gourmets and gourmands, historians, commentators, chefs and cooks all have their say, alongside Gopnik’s epigrammatic musings. What distinguishes dining from eating? What is morality (i.e., “who” or what should we eat) and is indulgence a sin? What is taste, the importance of the table or the value of tradition? And how did the restaurant, a relatively modern invention—created in Paris, just before the Revolution—become not simply a cultural icon but a kind of cult?

Much of The Table Comes First originated as pieces for The New Yorker, where Gopnik has glittered for a quarter-century, so this is a feast best consumed in discrete courses. Gopnick’s encounters with London snout-to-tail maven Fergus Henderson and the great Catalonian innovators behind elBulli, Ferran and Albert Adrià, are fascinating; his quixotic mission to prepare an entirely locavore, only-in-New York dinner is unexpectedly funny. His comments on food and wine critics are at once acute and sympathetic. And, of course, the writing is a pleasure (“the chastened, improved look of the egg yolks mixed with sugar”).

FRENCH FEAST
If Gopnik’s book is the menu de degustation, Balzac’s Omelette: A Delicious Tour of French Food and Culture with Honoré de Balzac is a lovely trifle. Written by the Paris-born, New York-based biographer Anka Muhlstein, and translated from French by Adriana Hunter, it uses quotations from the writer deemed a French Trollope (a pun he would have enjoyed) to portray a city and culture evolving alongside the restaurant. (Muhlstein and Gopnik disagree on a few facts, but they have historical sentiment in common.) Balzac’s characters eat in real-life cafes or in private homes, and the provenance of the fare, as well as its quality, reflect the new egalité (or not). The book’s French title is “Garçon, un cent d’huitres” (Waiter, a hundred oysters”); though Balzac ate almost nothing while working, between novels he could have given Diamond Jim Brady a run for his bivalves. Lovers of France, food and literature will find this a welcome gift.

IN SEARCH OF SUDS
The Great American Ale Trail: The Craft Beer Lover’s Guide to the Best Watering Holes in the Nation, by Christian DeBenedetti, is an exuberant, if arbitrary, “Route 66” of a jaunt through brewpubs and craft breweries. It is also a series of snapshots of brewers (including the famously unruly and charming Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head) and worthy but beer-less landmarks (New Orleans’ Central Grocery of muffaletta fame)—a sort of beerlover’s verbal Viewmaster. There are detours into history, regulatory scuffles, brewpubs lost and found and more. The descriptions of various brews are almost amorously tasty, and will doubtless inspire lovers of microbrews to add some names to their “must try” lists.

CHEERS TO COCKTAIL HOUR
Brian D. Murphy’s See Mix Drink: A Refreshingly Simple Guide to Crafting the World’s Most Popular Cocktails is a Mr. Boston’s for beginners that looks like the prototype for a smartphone app. Each recipe is loaded with “intuitive icons” (shapes of the bottles, implements, garnishes and glasses required) that act out the drink-making process, plus an illustration of the glass filled with proportional layers of ingredients (see illustration). The additional pie charts—a Black Velvet clearly illustrated as three ounces of stout and three ounces of Champagne in a flute is also displayed as a 50% brown, 50% tan circle—have the virtue of displaying a calorie count, 96 in this case. While most of the ­recipes are classic, some are perhaps more “app-propos.” His rendition of a Ramos Gin Fizz uses egg white powder and makes no mention of orange flower water, its characteristic flavoring. And while Murphy feels the need to explain what a blender does, he doesn’t define many of the additional ingredients, such as orgeat syrup or orange bitters, that may be less familiar to newbies. Still, the lively presentation is likely to help wean the junior “Mad Men” off chocolate martinis—a worthy cause.

New wine books used to be a holiday staple, but these days, wine talk has been replaced by sophisticated (and occasionally cultish) culinary chat, haute beer debates and retro cocktail repartee–all easily indulged tastes when it comes to your gift list. TOUR THE TABLEThough playful in tone, and packed with the wordplay that (among other […]
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Fathers usually don’t expect much for Father’s Day—a simple hug is plenty. But you could also acknowledge dad with a gift book, which these days might span topics from engineering to sports to cooking. The following selection of new books has dad and his modern-day versatility covered.

REACHING FOR THE SKY

From the publisher of last fall’s wonderful Mountaineers comes another richly illustrated volume that merges information on the lives of remarkable individuals with useful descriptions of their great achievements. Engineers, edited by Adam Hart-Davis, focuses on familiar names such as Robert Fulton, Eli Whitney, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison and other world-renowned innovators whose work dramatically changed human lives. But the coverage here—reaching back to the ancient world and through the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution, all the way to the Space Age—also extols many lesser known originators of essential engineering feats. The subject matter is far-ranging—aqueducts, ships, steam engines, electricity, airships, the automobile, architecture—in other words, any discipline that falls under the book’s titular category. Besides its plentiful photos and drawings, the text is loaded with informative sidebars and timelines. The technically inclined dad will love it.

LET’S GET COOKING

It’s hard to imagine cooking as an extreme sport, but that’s what we find in Daniel Duane’s How to Cook Like a Man: A Memoir of Cookbook Obsession. Duane is a Bay Area surfer-dude and writer whose entry into the world of fatherhood inspired him to play adventurous chef to his wife and two daughters. He embraces haute cuisine like an ancient warrior, inspired mainly by cookbook author and restaurateur Alice Waters, who happened to be Duane’s preschool teacher many years before. Duane eventually encounters Waters again when she hires him as a writer, but that episode is tangential to his epic crusade through thousands of recipes over an eight-year period. Specific food preps are recounted in some detail, but what Duane does with, say, duck fat, turnips, wild truffles or a whole cow stashed in his freezer is secondary to his fanatical Zen-like food rap and its effects on those around him. The book’s unexpected highlight: the description of a simple egg dish Waters whips up for Duane on the fly—served with a glass of Domaine de Fontsainte rosé.

THREE OF GOLF’S GREATEST

Veteran golf writer James Dodson’s American Triumvirate: Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, and the Modern Age of Golf blends social history with biography, focusing on the game’s somewhat shaky mid-20th-century status, when its growth was hampered by the Depression and World War II. Golf’s saviors emerge with Snead, Nelson and Hogan, each born in 1912 and all achieving superstar status, their lively competitions helping to sustain the game’s popularity and eventually spurring a postwar period of prosperity in which tournaments became more plentiful and the purses much larger. Dodson makes the case that this trio provided the historical bridge to the ever-more-prosperous eras of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. More so, his authoritative prose profiles three distinctly different individuals—the gentlemanly Nelson, the maverick Snead and the somewhat misunderstood Hogan—whose love of the game was complete and whose career paths were unavoidably intertwined.

LONG DISTANCE JOURNEY

Scott Jurek is an ultramarathoner whose exploits were profiled in the 2009 bestseller Born to Run. Now this amazing runner tells his own story in Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramara­thon Greatness. With co-writer Steve Friedman, Jurek charts his difficult early life in rural Minnesota, where his mother was ravaged by multiple sclerosis and family dynamics were always challenging. Yet somehow he soldiered on, finishing college, becoming a physical therapist and, most importantly, finding fulfillment as a runner. Achievement in “shorter” marathons led to success in more grueling races, chiefly the Western States Endurance Run, a 100-mile trek that Jurek won seven straight times. While his personal story is inspiring, the book also focuses on Jurek’s transition to a completely vegan diet. Recipes are included, as are training tips for amateur runners who want to step up their game.

RIDING HIGH

Humorist Dan Zevin, a 40-something father of two, finds himself totally digging his new wheels in Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad. “Have I told you my minivan has a built-in DVD player?” he gushes, as he embarks on his Brooklyn-based “Mr. Mom” phase. That’s a term Zevin strenuously objects to, but when your wife’s a New York City publishing bigshot and you’re the one hiring nannies. . . . Anyway, Dan’s a modern guy and a very funny writer—so as he narrates the family trip to Disney World, relates his experiences learning tennis and the guitar, relives his court date when he’s cited for not cleaning up after his dog, etc., other dads (and moms) will find plenty of humor in his misadventures. Besides philosophizing on changing priorities and other midlife concerns, Dan also has some endearing moments with his own dad, and those passages are justification enough for this entertaining volume’s Father’s Day relevance.

SUPERHERO TRIVIA

Finally, we have Brian Cronin’s Why Does Batman Carry Shark Repellent?, which should prove a popular gift for anyone who ever curled up with a comic book. From Batman and Robin to Archie and Jughead, comic book characters have a unique pop history that spans generations. Superfan and blogger Cronin pays homage through dozens of entertaining lists of names (e.g., “Fifteen Alliterative Comic Book Names Created by Stan Lee”), storylines (e.g., “Five Most Iconic Panels in Marvel Comics History”), cultural impact (“Six Bob Dylan References in Comic Books”), TV and movie trivia (“Four Interesting Ways That Actors Lost Out on Superhero Roles”) and more. If it all sounds deliciously geeky, it is.

Fathers usually don’t expect much for Father’s Day—a simple hug is plenty. But you could also acknowledge dad with a gift book, which these days might span topics from engineering to sports to cooking. The following selection of new books has dad and his modern-day versatility covered. REACHING FOR THE SKY From the publisher of last […]
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Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. In a column written exclusively for BookPage, he highlights terrific travel books, both old and new. This month, he selects some of the best books for foodies who love to travel—or travelers who love food!

I’ve long considered the bulk of travel itineraries—going to an art museum, seeing a monument, climbing a tower for a city view—as merely “the space between meals.” It’s the food that anchors the days, be it sit-down chic off the Champs d’Elysses or 50-cent noodles on plastic stools on a cracked sidewalk in Hanoi. To eat! That is to travel.

Before you set off, there are amazing food-related travel books that cover the world or focus on some of the world’s most interesting destinations.

Food Lover’s Guide to the World is an indispensable new pictorial tour through the great cuisines of the world, including travel tips and recipes if you want to bring the world back home to your kitchen. For a more literary choice,  A Moveable Feast takes the Hemingway title literally, with a collection of bite-sized essays by well-known writers focused on the tasty fusion of travel and food experiences, including contributions by Anthony Bourdain, Pico Iyer and Elizabeth Eaves.

Italy always wins for foodie travel. Beth Elon’s A Culinary Traveler in Tuscany gives 10 off-the-beaten-track, recipe-filled itineraries around Italy’s most famous food and wine region. Elon arrives in lesser-known towns, like Filattiera during its July 1-4 festival La Fame e la Sete (the hunger and the thirst), where the aroma of sizzling meats hangs over the old village square filled with tables for that night’s feast.

Italian food continues in New Yorker staff writer Bill Buford’s Heat, which gives an illuminating behind-the-scenes look at a great New York Italian restaurant. After daringly inviting celeb chef Mario Batali over for dinner, Buford signs up to be a ‘kitchen slave’ at his acclaimed restaurant Babbo. The result is a fun and intimate book, where Buford learns to butcher a hog and jets off to Italy to learn more from Batali’s former teachers.

Pastry chef David Lebovitz had wanted a Paris home address since he learned that the French clip the tips of haricots verts (green beans) before tossing them in a pot—toujours! A couple of decades later his dream came true, when he left the restaurant business in San Francisco and moved to France. Lebovitz recounts his stumbles with life as an expat in Paris, along with dozens of new French-inspired recipes, in his memoir The Sweet Life in Paris. Warning: reading Lebovitz’s story may make you book a flight to the City of Light or induce uncontrollable chocolate urges.

Robert Reid is Lonely Planet’s U.S. Travel Editor. If he could choose his last meal on Earth, it would be a picnic lunch of Vietnamese imperial rolls at Nevada’s Valley of Fire State Park.

Robert Reid is the U.S. Travel Editor for Lonely Planet. In a column written exclusively for BookPage, he highlights terrific travel books, both old and new. This month, he selects some of the best books for foodies who love to travel—or travelers who love food! I’ve long considered the bulk of travel itineraries—going to an […]
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Is it just me, or are there a lot more fancy-schmancy engineered books being created today? By this, I mean pop-up books, books with unusual structures and even books that ask a child to do something that “changes” the book. If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the book trailer of children reading the best-selling Press Here by French author Hervé Tullet.

That was so 2011! But Tullet and others have some captivating new books that will amaze readers and keep them crawling up on their parents’ laps, asking for more.

WORMING YOUR WAY IN

For the youngest book enthusiast, Tullet’s Let’s Play Games board book series is sure to please. My favorite of the newest bunch is The Finger Circus Game. With a hole drilled through the book, the reader’s own fingers (with eye and nose and mouth drawn on if desired) become the “world famous finger worms,” swinging on trapezes, juggling and even putting their little worm heads in a lion’s mouth. One can imagine older children drawing the worms themselves and making up adventures outside of the circus.

A child’s finger becomes part of the action in Herve Tullet’s The Finger Circus Game.

 

THE WORLD OUTSIDE

For slightly older readers, author-illustrator Lizi Bond creates a child’s world on brown Kraft paper in Inside Outside. The book is a festival of amazing die-cuts that work together to wordlessly tell the story of a boy—inside and outside his home—and show the range of his creativity. The story begins in winter, and the unsuspecting reader might not even notice the cunning die-cuts until she turns the first page. Here we see snow people looking into the boy’s window. With so much to notice—the muted blue and red gouache paintings on the wall, the mittens on the floor, the mice driving the play cars—it’s easy to miss that those are real openings in the page, not just drawings of windows. But, with the page turn, the boy is now outside with the snowmen and the paintings are visible inside that same window.

This homey book is carefully constructed so that each turn of the page brings a real surprise. The pieces fit perfectly and the pacing is gentle. As the seasons change, the boy enjoys the beauty of nature outside—splashing in puddles, planting a garden, raking leaves—and creates art for the walls of his house that reflects what he has experienced. This is a clever book about the child’s need to create and the inspiration that nature can provide. Children will want to turn the pages back and forth again and again—and perhaps grab a piece of their own Kraft paper to see what they can create.

Lizi Bond's Inside Outside uses die-cuts to create windows on the page.

 

GOTTA DANCE

Molly Idle, who spent five years as an animator for DreamWorks Studios before turning to children’s book illustration, brings us another sort of carefully constructed book, using flaps and foldouts to tell the story of Flora, a chubby little girl wearing a pink leotard and a yellow swim hat who wants to be a ballerina. Flora and the Flamingo is a must-have for children who are just learning to dance. Flora’s mentor is one very confident flamingo. At the beginning, we see the flamingo looking straight ahead and Flora imitating him. Bend down the flaps and both dancers look behind them. Flora is wearing swimming flippers, which make her moves appear ungainly, but her spirit is (pardon me) unflappable. The vast amount of white space—the page is just the two dancers with a frame of pink branches—serves as a stage for Flora and her pink friend, for dancing or falling or encouraging. One magnificent gatefold at the end is so joyous that youngsters will want to waltz around the room, just like Flora and the flamingo.

In Molly Idle's Flora and the Flamingo, flaps conceal a second view of the figures.

 

A RAINBOW OF BOOKS

Open the first page of Jesse Klausmeier and Suzy Lee’s amazing new book, Open This Little Book, and you might be tricked. Is this a book with just two pages? No. Inside the page is a little purple book and inside that is a smaller red and black polka dotted book and inside that is a smaller green book . . . all the way down to a teeny little rainbow book! A giant’s hands are too huge to handle this tiny book, so all the critters who have read the rainbow of books (for that is what the edges of the books have formed) help turn the pages and close all the little books, until “Ladybug closes her little green book . . . You close this little red book . . . and . . . open another!” The final illustration shows all the animals from the little books reading, reading, reading. The grey raindrops from the opening endpages have turned rainbow colored as well! This is a magical book that pays tribute to books and reading in a way that is neither preachy nor silly. Open This Little Book has the feel of an instant classic.

One little book lies inside another in Open This Little Book, written by Jesse Klausmeier and illustrated by Suzy Lee.

 

Clever paper engineering adds to the appeal of each of these books, drawing children into the stories, or inviting kids to create their own. These kinds of books are intriguing to read and will stand the test of time. It’s a good thing too—they will be requested by children over and over again!

Robin Smith teaches second grade in Nashville. She reviews children's books for several publications and was a member of the 2011 Caldecott Committee.

 

Watch a demonstration of Flora and The Flamingo.

Watch a trailer for Open This Little Book.

Is it just me, or are there a lot more fancy-schmancy engineered books being created today? By this, I mean pop-up books, books with unusual structures and even books that ask a child to do something that “changes” the book. If you want to see what I’m talking about, look at the book trailer of […]
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Holiday spirits are supposed to be high, not haute. But if the proliferation of cocktail “creations” and infusions and artisan mixers has you and your friends flummoxed, here are a handful of drinkers’ delights that could either adorn the coffee table or—just in time—restore your hostly confidence.

WINE-ING DOWN
Once upon a time, wine drinkers aspired to be connoisseurs. Then came the wine wonks—those who carried calculators for vintages and futures—and the geeks, who bought by the ratings. Now we have entered the age of wine nerds, who buy the wine equivalent of self-help books.

For example: Hello, Wine: The Most Essential Things You Need to Know About Wine by Melanie Wagner, a self-confessed former wine “bumpkin” turned Certified Sommelier. Like most such books, it begins with a confessional, then runs through a catechism of allure and reassurance to bring the reader resoundingly into the converts’ fold. Once Wagner hits her stride, her descriptions of varietals, tips on restaurant wine lists, tasting, hosting and food-matching, etc., are very good. And her picks for dependable producers—particularly those whose wines are under-$15 steals or fall in the “sweet spot” of $26 to $50—are spot on, so to speak.

This season’s best gag gift, perfect for pairing with a bottle, is the unexpectedly entertaining The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide to Becoming a Wine Expert. Brevity is indeed the soul of wit: A scant dozen spreads illustrate the pithy tips from Master Sommelier Richard Betts. (A Certified Sommelier ranking is Level 2; a Master is Level 4, the highest.) “Wine is a grocery, not a luxury” is Betts’ mantra. He demystifies in guy-pal style: “In this case, size does not matter: We’ve all got a great schnoz.” The cartoons by Wendy MacNaughton contribute so much to the book that she really should have been acknowledged on the cover. Betts includes a pullout map to the “whole wine world” that attempts to match mood to olfactory method. While the scratch-and-sniff technology is in need of a little tweaking—the leather may be the best simulacrum—the illustrations, both literal and figurative, of the aromatic elements are memorable.

SIPPING SUDS
Although the title is a little man-cave chic, The Complete Beer Course: Boot Camp for Beer Geeks, From Novice to Expert in Twelve Tasting Classes is an accessible and impressively informed dissertation on beer styles and best labels. Longtime beer journalist Joshua M. Bernstein has traveled, tasted, interviewed and researched centuries of brewing lore. Like nearly all his colleagues, Bernstein is prone to the pun (“yeast of Eden,” “all is not white in the world,” etc.). His picks of breweries and beer-centric restaurants and festivals make this a consumer’s guide in both senses.

For those who want to go straight to the good stuff, World Beer: Outstanding Classic and Craft Beers from the Greatest Breweries, by veteran British beer critic Tim Hampson, disposes of brewing techniques, history, beer styles, tasting techniques and flavor pairings in a few high-gloss pages and launches headlong (sorry—the punning is contagious) into profiles of more than 800 fine craft beers organized by country and region. And Hampson does mean “world beer”: Who knew Namibia was a big microbrewery center? This is a serious coffee table book that could be the co-star of a fine beer-tasting party.

WHISKEY RIVER
Drinking mirrors pop culture, and having passed through the “Mad Men” martini renaissance, Americans are testing the “Breaking Bad” waters—which is to say, whiskey, derived from the Gaelic for “water of life.” In Drink More Whiskey: Everything You Need to Know About Your New Favorite Drink, Daniel Yaffe, founder and editor of Drink Me magazine, covers the wide world of whiskey from the U.S. to the U.K. to Japan (and beyond), from single malt to small batch to honey whiskey to moonshine. Like Wagner, he can flourish a bit too often: “If a single malt is a group of violinists with a brilliant tone, a blend might be the full orchestra.” “Like people, peat mellows with age.” (Clearly, he and I have not met.) But if the flash is weak, the spirit is indeed willing: Yaffe mixes history, trends, ingredients—both within the barrel and in the glass—and technique into a truly tasty cocktail.

Holiday spirits are supposed to be high, not haute. But if the proliferation of cocktail “creations” and infusions and artisan mixers has you and your friends flummoxed, here are a handful of drinkers’ delights that could either adorn the coffee table or—just in time—restore your hostly confidence. WINE-ING DOWNOnce upon a time, wine drinkers aspired […]
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After decades of transforming everyday life into a service industry, Americans are embracing DIY as a second language, with whole industries devoted to restoring the lost garden of earthly delights.

BRING HAPPY HOUR HOME
Organic produce and farm-to-table dining, artisan cheeses, small-vineyard wines, etc., are badges of the newly educated palate. There are more has-beens wielding knives and renovating houses on cable TV than on “Dancing with the Stars.”

And now we are in the age of the mixologist. You read it here first: The next Cooking Channel will be the Cocktail Channel. While drinkers’ manuals to consuming wine, whiskey, beer and so on have been flourishing for years, the trend now calls for how-to books designed to reinvent happy hour as home entertainment.

Among the most useful, and admirably unpretentious, is The 12 Bottle Bar: A Dozen Bottles. Hundreds of Cocktails. A New Way to Drink. by David Solmonson and Lesley Jacobs Solmonson, which leads you gently from buying the basics to making the best of them—a friendly offer made even less threatening when you realize that the dependable dozen includes two vermouths, two bitters and orange liqueur (i.e., Cointreau, Grand Marnier, etc.). Even more admirable, it reminds readers that being a good host has more to do with joining your guests than trying to impress them.

At once the wittiest and most comprehensive of new spirits encyclopedias, The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol: A Cocktail of Amusing Anecdotes and Opinion on the Art of Imbibing, by Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham, arose from a theatrical lecture at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011, but it’s more than wordplay. It’s a succinct but surprisingly sound romp through the history of spirits, their great proponents (Jack Kerouac for tequila, Thomas Jefferson for wine, Hemingway for rum), a bit of myth and culture (the Wild West) and even some great movie moments as well as a restrained selection of famous labels. Oh, and did you know? Jesus was a beer guy. (Toga party, anyone?) It may also be the first such tome with a Kickstarter pedigree, making it a truly populist publication. The collage-style illustrations and graphic timelines are equally admirable.

AN AMERICAN CLASSIC
Although it might sound painfully stodgy, Michael Dietsch’s Shrubs: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times is a fine introduction to artisanal ingredients you actually can make at home. A shrub is simply a beverage combining fruit and herbs or spices with vinegar, or in some cases citrus fruit. It’s a style of drink that goes back millennia, and was a staple of Founding Mother pantries; one of the recipes comes from Martha Washington, another from Ben Franklin. Such beverages are still common elsewhere—I have a bottle and recipe book from the wife of a highly regarded Japanese winemaker—and are immensely soothing by themselves as well as in mixed drinks, which makes them perfect for mixed-ages parties (or, as per Dietsch’s wife, for the pregnant or indisposed). Most of the 40 or so shrub recipes here have only three or four ingredients and don’t even require cooking; what a lovely weekend project!

FOR COCKTAIL NERDS ONLY
At the far end of the accessibility spectrum is molecular mixology, and only true cocktail geeks (or those looking for gifts for them) will get the full frontal benefit of Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail Momofuku’s resident mad scientist Dave Arnold, who is to cocktails as Richard Blais is to home cooking (doesn’t everyone use liquid nitrogen in the kitchen?), discourses at length on the correct size of ice cubes for specific concoctions, quick-cooking bitters, countertop distilling, eutectic freezing (look it up), comparative percentages of ethanol in mixers and so on. Fortunately, there are a few recipes that don’t require a vacuum machine, so maybe you and your Significant Nerd can bond over those.

SPIRIT GUIDES
Matt Teacher’s The Spirit of Gin: A Stirring Miscellany of the New Gin Revival begins with a foreword by Arrigo Cipriani, son of the co-founder of the legendary Harry’s Bar in Venice, and includes interviews with distinguished bartenders and producers, but sometimes there’s a little too much Teacher in the talk. It is, however, a lush and beautiful book full of what might be called cocktail porn—full-color photographs of concoctions, shakers, bars, etc. (Nearly 40 percent of the book is entitled “A Catalogue of Gin Distillers,” and what with the pictures of various producers’ bottles, it starts to feel a little like a sales brochure.)

Whisk(e)y Distilled: A Populist Guide to the Water of Life, by Heather Greene, is modeled on the now-familiar wine manual style, combining history, terroir (bourbon vs. Irish, and that pesky “e”), science and technology (distilling methods, barrel aging), education (deciphering labels) and storage and entertaining tips (recipes and glassware). Greene, who teaches a whiskey course at Manhattan’s Flatiron Room and was the first woman to serve on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society tasting panel, plays up the chick-liquor schtick a little too much, but she’s particularly good on tasting elements and flavor and aroma descriptions. As she points out, women seem to have better noses.

Now, if someone would just outlaw the subtitle, we could save a forest.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

After decades of transforming everyday life into a service industry, Americans are embracing DIY as a second language, with whole industries devoted to restoring the lost garden of earthly delights.
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With every passing day, our world seems ever more gender-neutral. Nevertheless, some topics still fit pretty comfortably into the category of the “historical purview of men,” and some fine new publications have arrived to stake their claim as appropriate holiday gifts for special guys.

THE SPORTING LIFE
Bob Ryan recently retired after clocking in close to 50 years as a print sports reporter. But Ryan’s career also encompassed television, and through the miracle of ESPN, this less-than-obviously-telegenic fellow came to be known far and wide for his knowledge of sports and no-nonsense opinions about the controversial personalities who played them. In Scribe: My Life in Sports, Ryan offers an enjoyable memoir that spans his early days as a sports-crazy lad in Trenton, New Jersey, the launching of his career with The Boston Globe and on to the decades spent covering local teams, in particular his beloved Celtics. Ryan also covered baseball, football, the Olympics and golf, but it is no surprise that his most interesting words here concern basketball figures such as Red Auerbach, Bobby Knight and Larry Bird. Ryan’s on-air activities with ESPN continue, so this volume really serves as the capper to his newspaper days as a man on a steady beat.

FIXER-UPPER
Guys are certainly not alone these days when it comes to home repairs and general Mr. (or Ms.) Fix It concerns. Yet the phrase remains “nice to have a man around the house,” and the new fourth edition of The Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual updates a volume that’s been of value to amateur handymen since 1973. The coverage is exhaustive, from descriptions of the basic tools and accessories necessary to tackle any job to wonderfully detailed instructions for completing all manner of interior and exterior repair and remodeling projects. The editors assume the reader’s can-do spirit and dive right in with thorough descriptions of plumbing, electrical, landscaping, masonry and woodworking projects, along with step-by-step instructions supplemented by color photos and drawings. Even for those guys who may not muster the chutzpah to actually replace a toilet or asphalt shingles, this hefty tome will serve as a superior, safety-conscious general guide and reference for home use.

FIRE IT UP
In a health-conscious modern world, meat—especially red meat—has endured its share of revisionist dietary criticism. But that doesn’t stop acclaimed U.K. food writer Nichola Fletcher from providing endlessly supportive and knowledgeable text for The Meat Cookbook, which emerges as a salutary—and heavily illustrated—celebration of all things carnivorous. Fletcher’s lengthy opening section, “Meat Know-How,” is a storehouse of general info on meat, from assessing the various cuts to using cutlery, from modes of cooking to preparing sauces. The individual chapters focus on the specific meat categories—poultry, pork, beef, lamb, game and even offal (organ meats that require special cooking attention). A final section, “Home Butchery,” goes where most of us regular folks fear to tread, but it provides valuable information and useful diagrams for home kitchen prep, including good reminders on hygiene and safety. The hundreds of recipes by Christopher Trotter, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and Rachel Green look nothing short of spectacular and provide a survey of meat dishes from across the globe.

FULL STEAM AHEAD
“Stunning” is one word that describes Train: The Definitive Visual History. This massive, gorgeously produced volume is nothing short of a feast for the eyes, at once an impressive publishing achievement and probably the definitive popular work on its subject. Produced under the supervision of the Smithsonian and general consultant Tony Streeter, the book’s beauty and authority outweigh even its serious poundage as it chronicles the development of locomotives and railroads, describes more than 400 train engines and railcars, explores worldwide rail journeys and features plenty of side trips over bridges and through tunnels. The detailing of the trains themselves is spectacular, all in vivid color and including the minutiae of technical specifications, which will enthrall any train buff. For those happy enough with the history alone, the text is enjoyable and comprehensive, filled with profiles of early 19th-century pioneer inventors, interesting facts about the industry’s expansion from England to Europe to the U.S., plus sidebars on the train’s roles as a prime mover of people and an engine of war.

WHAT A MARVEL
Finally, there’s Marvel Comics: 75 Years of Cover Art, yet another gloriously hefty volume. This one celebrates that perennial obsession of just about every young guy—and even some older ones. Historically, there was always a divide between lovers of DC Comics (Superman, Batman, etc.) and those who favored Marvel Comics, purveyors of Captain America, the Incredible Hulk, Wolverine, X-Men and many other iconic superheroes. Yet comparisons are odious, and at their best, Marvel’s covers were (and are) wonderful. This compelling gallery of enlarged examples pops with dazzling color and dramatic action, backed by Alan Cowsill’s captions and sidebars describing each print, along with capsule profiles of important artists such as Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and John Romita Sr. The covers are divided into four historical periods—Golden Age, Silver Age, Bronze Age and Modern Age—offering a striking overview of the development of the art form’s style, as well as comics’ reflection of societal changes. One cover even features President Obama!

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

With every passing day, our world seems ever more gender-neutral. Nevertheless, some topics still fit pretty comfortably into the category of the “historical purview of men,” and some fine new publications have arrived to stake their claim as appropriate holiday gifts for special guys.

Warning: These books will make you want to adopt a dog. Or another. Maybe even several. The pooches featured in the five books here do everything from joy riding to going for a swim (or at least a dog paddle).

OUT FOR A SWIM
So, you’ve memorized the images in Seth Casteel’s Underwater Dogs (2012) and long for more? Never fear, Underwater Puppies is here! It’s worth the wait: These delightfully damp puppies are even sweeter than those that came before, not least because most of the pups are so very tiny (or: automatically cute). Casteel is a master at capturing the looks on their faces, and the effect is irresistible, whether the subject is Sugar (a boxer who serenely floats among the bubbles) or Bentley (a French bulldog whose expression says, what is going ON here?). The dogs pictured hail from shelters and rescue groups and serve as a reminder that, as Casteel writes, “adoption is a fantastic option when considering bringing a puppy into your life.” And how.

JUST BREATHE
Do you know someone who needs a chill pill? Here’s one in book form: Lessons in Balance: A Dog’s Reflections on Life by 9-year-old Scout, the pit bull star of the Tumblr blog “Stuff on Scout’s Head.” And that’s exactly what you get in this book—photo after photo of Scout calmly balancing all sorts of items on his head, with sayings like “Acknowledge your feelings” and “Look beyond appearances.” Turning the pages is a surprisingly hypnotic experience. After a while, the objects fade, and the consistency of Scout’s mellow gaze prompts a feeling of tranquility. The images can be a hoot, for sure: The bunch of asparagus on Scout’s head is funny, the soap-bubble is impressive and the hourglass is poignant. But the humorous images don’t belie the message. As object-placer and owner Jennifer Gillen writes, “From [Scout] I’ve learned to be present and mindful, focus on the task at hand, and complete it.”

DINING A DEUX
If you live alone, it can seem easier to favor quick-and-easy meals. But there’s another way! Judith Jones offers time-tested strategies for feeding yourself and your canine companion in Love Me, Feed Me: Sharing with Your Dog the -Everyday Good Food You Cook and Enjoy. An esteemed editor at Knopf for 50-plus years who edited the likes of Julia Child and Jacques Pépin, Jones has also written cookbooks herself. She now raises grass-fed cattle on her farm in Vermont, with her dog, Mabon, by her side. He’s her kitchen compatriot, as well, which is eminently sensible of him, since Jones is a longtime champion of cooking for pets. She began in 1933 at age 9, when cans of wet food and bags of kibble were not available. “I liked sharing some of what we were eating with a creature I treasured. It was my way of caring for her,” she writes. In Love Me, Feed Me, she offers 50-plus recipes for meats, pasta and more, along with plenty of photos and stories. Clever tips abound, like this one: Why struggle to scrape a pot clean when you’ve got an eager dog who’s happy to help with the task?

HIT THE ROAD, FIDO
Ah, hitting the road—the time-honored tradition that celebrates freedom, possibility and the delights of windblown hair. In Dogs in Cars, photographer Lara Jo Regan, best known as the guardian of the beloved Mr. Winkle, captures “the pure joy of a dog in its most heightened state” via a gorgeously photographed collection of dogs with eyes alight, tongues flapping, fur ruffled by the breeze. The pooches look thrilled (and beautiful—Regan knows her lighting), and will inspire an urge to hug any nearby pets. All of the images were taken in California and showcase the state’s natural beauty: palm trees, mountains, beaches, glorious skies. Cars range from a 1979 Cadillac Eldorado to a 2014 Toyota Prius (there’s a golf cart, too), and indexes at the back identify the various cars and dog breeds. Dogs in Cars is a fun gift for dog lovers, road-trippers, car aficionados and anyone who wants to gaze upon joy, page after page.

FURRY FRIENDS
Brittni Vega’s Harlow & Sage (and Indiana): A True Story About Best Friends is a sweet and funny story told from Harlow the Weimaraner’s perspective. (Thankfully, Harlow doesn’t use the mangled English favored by some Internet sensations—she would never spell cheese with a “z”!) The book began as an Instagram account in 2013, with wonderful photos of the adventures of Harlow and her older sister Sage. Alas, Sage died a few months later. In an effort to assuage everyone’s sadness, Vega and her husband brought home Indiana, a Dac-hshund puppy. Following along as the dogs and their humans move from fresh grief to fond memories, from begrudging acceptance to true sisterhood, is a lovely experience. There’s lots of dog-centric hilarity, too, which makes Harlow & Sage a great choice for reading to or with kids.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Warning: These books will make you want to adopt a dog. Or another. Maybe even several. The pooches featured in the five books here do everything from joy riding to going for a swim (or at least a dog paddle).
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Americans discover, and rediscover, trends in drinking just as they do in dining. A few years ago, the holidays were afloat in variously erudite or encouraging tomes on wine-tastings, great regions and terroirs, and beginners’ ways to “express” beverage flavors, not to mention a slew of wine guides especially for women.

Then the evangelicals of beer hopped up to defend that equally ancient and venerable tonic, followed by the prophets of whiskeys, shrubs and, well, tonics. Not to mention the numerous re-inventors of the cocktail.

All this alcohol-inspired abundance may explain why beverage experts are looking more into niche and novelty approaches this year.

PROPOSE A TOAST
Paul Dickson has written 65 nonfiction books on a variety of subjects, including cocktailing and toasting, language and baseball—often in combination (i.e., a history of drinking in baseball). Dickson’s latest, Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Supposed To, began as a fascination with Prohibition-era recipe books that along the way naturally snowballed into an engaging discourse on classic cocktails replete with trivia, recipes, a list of -alcohol-related slang of the period and a fair amount of Golden-Era literary and celebrity gossip. As Dickson points out, the years of Prohibition coincided with some of the most flamboyant drinking in literature and on Broadway and the Silver Screen (think The Great Gatsby and W.C. Fields). 

Although not exactly unknown, the asides are entertaining: Henry Craddock, who fled Prohibition Manhattan for London and compiled the still-revered Savoy Cocktail Book, told an interviewer in 1926 that he was then mixing up at least 280 cocktails—a number that did not include juleps, fizzes, punches, highballs, etc. Dickson defends the use of vodka in the Bloody Mary, though he does dispense with the common misconception that it has anything to do with the onetime Queen, and goes with the often-disputed version of the drink having been created at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. (A disproportionate number of famous bartenders and recipe writers were named Harry, possibly giving a whole new meaning to the phrase “hair of the dog.”) 

THE PUN'S THE THING
More self-consciously “literary” is a stocking stuffer for unrepentant punsters (actually, the sort of entertainment that used to be found in the bathrooms of the well-read). In Shakespeare, Not Stirred: Cocktails for Your Everyday Dramas, populist Shakespeare professors Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim have pulled out all the stoppers, condensing the plots of the Bard’s plays into “riotous prose” and then naming slightly twisted cocktails for long-suffering characters. Consider the Lady Macbeth’s G-Spot (something like a Lear-ing bastard offshoot of a whiskey sour and a Rob Roy); Much Ado About Frothing (pisco sour with heart-shaped sprinkles) and chapters entitled “Shall I Campari Thee to a Summer’s Day?” 

As Shakespeare was already an inveterate punster, the book is almost too much of a muchness, best consumed in small quantities. Maybe it could serve a peculiar book club—one reading, and one round of drinks, at a time.

AN APPLE A DAY
Longtime beer-book author and blogger Jeff Alworth has temporarily swapped suds for cider, which he believes is the next specialty brew, and which he pointedly defines not as the insipid fruit juice of childhood but a whole family of artisan beverages including Calvados and Lambig. In Cider Made Simple: All About Your New Favorite Drink, Alworth travels from apple farms in the U.S. to Canada, England, France and Spain, talking and tasting with artisan cider blenders. He discusses the roles of aromatics, acidity, sweetness, tannins, fermentation, florals, “funkiness”—and if this sounds reminiscent of a wine primer, it’s no accident. Craft cider can range in alcohol content from 3 percent to 10 percent. It may be blended from a carefully curated balance of apple species, like vine varieties. Some of the best cider is even riddled and disgorged, à la Champagne, although with a somewhat different technique. 

Alford may be jumping the gun a little on calling cider the next favorite beverage, but he isn’t too far ahead of the curve: While its following is small compared to that of craft beer, the cider market is estimated to double every three years. 

A CLASSIC MIXER
The glossiest book of the bunch, and the one best suited to the cocktail obsessive, is Adam Ford’s Vermouth: The Revival of the Spirit that Created America’s Cocktail Culture. It’s part love letter to what has become his actual profession—he’s the founder of Atsby, a groundbreaking vermouth producer—and a bit of a vanity production, as it’s hard for him to resist specifying one of Atsby’s vermouths in his recipes.

Either way, it’s a passion project. Ford has dived deeply into drinking history—about 10,000 years’ worth—to show that herb- and spice-infused alcohols have been recognized as medicinal and recreational potions since Neolithic times nearly everywhere around the globe. (Admittedly, that’s a pretty broad definition of vermouth, but he has a point.) He strolls through decades of America’s evolving cocktail culture: the New York Exhibition of 1853, when four different Italian “vermout” makers poured a liquor that Charles Dickens admired; the wild and wicked post-Civil War Manhattan; the “Mad Men” era; etc. 

Oh, along the way, Ford brings up two more famous Harrys: Harry Johnson, famed author of the 1882 New and Improved Illustrated Bartender’s Manual, Or: How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style; and Harry Hill, owner of one of Manhattan’s first Gilded Age “concert saloons.” Maybe it’s a secret society.

 

This article was originally published in the November 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

An alcohol-inspired abundance has led beverage experts to look more into niche and novelty approaches to drink-themed gift books this year.
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Sports heroes, military giants, one handsome movie star and savory recipes to satisfy even the burliest man’s appetite—these are the hooks that drive this holiday season’s selection of gift books for guys.

INTO THE WAR ROOM
Best known for his novel Forrest Gump, Winston Groom is also a well-published historian. His latest project, The Generals: Patton, MacArthur, Marshall, and the Winning of World War II, is a multi-tiered yet wholly accessible examination of the intertwined careers of three brilliant American soldiers: George Marshall, George Patton and Douglas MacArthur. All three were born in the 1880s, gained critical experience in World War I and became key players in World War II. Groom outlines each man’s personal life and military exploits with special focus on the Second World War, where Marshall excelled as an army administrator, Patton as a fiery commander of forces on the European front and MacArthur as an inspirational leader in the Pacific theater. Groom balances the strictly biographical data with well-researched historical accounts, and along the way he offers invaluable perspectives on the world politics that critically influenced his subjects’ lives.

PIGGING OUT
Accomplished author and competitive hunter Jennifer L.S. Pearsall serves up Praise the Pig: Loin to Belly, Shoulder to Ham—Pork-​Inspired Recipes for Every Meal, a comprehensive collection of more than 50 pork recipes. Pearsall’s culinary celebration begins with a thorough overview of pork cuts and styles of preparation and cooking (roasting, smoking, etc.), plus an excellent discussion of bacon brands and pork-savvy kitchen tips. Then come the recipes, with inviting full-color photos, starting with Chili-Rubbed, Salsa-Braised Chops with Spiced Rice, moving to Roasted Pork Tenderloin Chili and ending with Connecticut Clam Chowder. In between are hearty sandwiches, soups (porkestrone!), breakfast dishes, puddings, mac and cheese variations and appetizers to die for, including a Bacon and Roasted Corn Salsa that demands the immediate gathering of ingredients. No self-respecting pork lover could ever refuse this book of porcine delights.

MAN BEHIND THE MUSTACHE
Man’s man Burt Reynolds has had a hit-or-miss acting career. Yet his life has certainly been eventful, as his new memoir, But Enough About Me, clearly attests. Penned with veteran author Jon Winokur, Reynolds’ book is frankly revealing but rarely mean-spirited. For example, Burt’s short-lived marriages to Judy Carne and Loni Anderson were admittedly rocky, but he always takes the high road when he can. More enlightening are his reminiscences of his close friendships with Bette Davis and Dinah Shore, both women of substance whom Burt cherished. Coverage here is chronologically ordered, from Reynolds’ youthful days as a Florida football star to his early acting adventures in New York City to his arrival in California in the 1950s, where small television roles eventually led to feature films, including the critically acclaimed Deliverance (1972) and Boogie Nights (1997), for which he received an Oscar nomination. The enduring Reynolds turns 80 in February, and his surprisingly entertaining show-biz retrospective should find a wide audience.

HEAVYWEIGHT HERO
Journalist Davis Miller’s obsession with Muhammad Ali has spanned from his childhood to the present day, and his book Approaching Ali: A Reclamation in Three Acts represents the culmination of that relationship. The heavyweight champ first inspired Miller when he was a sickly, depressed child. As a teen, Miller had an opportunity to spar with The Greatest, an event that spawned a short news account for Sports Illustrated and helped point him toward a writing career. In this latest testament to his hero, Miller blends new material on his more recent experiences with Ali with reworked excerpts from his previous writings, presenting what he believes to be “the all-time most intimate and quietly startling portrait of Ali’s day-by-day life, as well as the only deeply detailed look at his enormously rich years after boxing.” Ali, now 74 and courageously battling Parkinson’s disease, remains one of the great figures of 20th-century sports, and this profile finds the boxer’s playful good nature and magnanimous personal spirit intact.

TALLYING THE SCORE
Veteran sportswriter Gary Myers recounts the careers of the game’s marquee quarterbacks in Brady vs Manning: The Untold Story of the Rivalry That Transformed the NFL. Myers successfully achieves a dual biography of these iconic figures, focusing not only on what the pair have meant to the National Football League but also what they’ve meant to each other. The relationship between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning emerges here as one of keen mutual respect—both on and off the field—despite the differing nature of their media personas. When Myers isn’t connecting the dots of the Brady-Manning friendship, he serves up thorough profiles of their separate lives, including their college football careers and their arrival on the pro scene: Manning as the coveted #1 draft pick of the Indianapolis Colts in 1998 and Brady as an unheralded 6th-round pick of the New England Patriots in 2000. There are no shocking revelations here, just good information, solid quotes from important football folks and interesting viewpoints on two important athletes.

 

This article was originally published in the December 2015 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Sports heroes, military giants, one handsome movie star and savory recipes to satisfy even the burliest man’s appetite—these are the hooks that drive this holiday season’s selection of gift books for guys.
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Making history

If the working portcullis on the cover doesn't convince you, the gorgeous pop – up castle, cathedral and medieval bridge will: A Knight's City by Philip Steele is one nifty book of knights. Guided by Sir Hugo, readers ages six and up are privy to the sights, smells, sounds and sensibilities of Northern Europe in the year 1325. Labeled color illustrations, illuminated manuscripts and photographs of contemporary tools, games, weapons and wares complete the "you are there" depiction of a journey to knighthood.

Fast-forward to the Dakota grasslands during the 1870s for The Story of Yellow Leaf: Journal of a Sioux Girl by Gavin Mortimer, illustrated by Tony Morris. The date is no accident: Yellow Leaf's intimate account of her ordinary life coincides with the extraordinary disruption of Sioux tradition by white prospectors, settlers and soldiers. Presented as an illustrated journal, the story flows around detailed watercolors, pop – ups and flaps showing scenes of Sioux home life, ceremony, hunting and eventual war. For readers eight years and up, this is an appealing introduction to an important chapter in American history.

For more chapters of American history, try yet another personal journal: America: The Making of a Nation. Imaginatively presented as the scrapbook of an anonymous, patriotic history freak (and a veteran, to boot), the book takes readers of any age through a tour of America from Independence Hall in 1776 to the present day. Maps, illustrations, facsimile souvenirs, song lyrics and memorabilia practically spill off of every page, and countless flaps, pull-outs, inserts and other paper tricks just keep coming. A must for any kid studying American history in school, or for any history-minded household.

Anatomy lessons

Two body books in one gift roundup? Yes, because this reviewer could not be induced to ignore either one. The first, The Way We Work: Getting to Know the Human Body is by David Macaulay. This in itself is reason enough to run out and buy it. Macaulay is a master of bringing intricate structures to vivid life, and he is no less suited to expose the human body than the buildings and machines he is famous for. Peppy, brilliant and oh-so-fun, Macaulay's latest ensures that kids (and grown-ups) finally stand a darn good chance of understanding this stuff for real.

Dr. Frankenstein's Human Body Book: The Monstrous Truth About How Your Body Works by Richard Walker is just as informative, but worlds apart in presentation. The Dr. Frankenstein connection compels even a reluctant learner to peep inside various body parts, but once there, classic DK style takes over: attractive, busy, organized and clear as a bell.

Visual treats

Now, really, can anyone get excited about a new dictionary? Yes, if it's Merriam-Webster's Compact Visual Dictionary. The key word here is "visual." Many dictionaries have the odd illustration here or there, but in this one, every single word gets a glorious color illustration bristling with captions and details. The thematic arrangement is practical for specific queries, but it also makes browsing fun: Universe and Earth, Sports and Games, Animal Kingdom, and so on. Any book with in – depth info on wildly disparate entries like the greenhouse effect, locking pliers, a kumquat, a mitochondrion and a deep fat fryer is supremely satisfying.

The Food Network's reigning queen whips up Paula Deen's My First Cookbook for the very young. Though sprinkled with Deen family lore and photos, this is a solid beginner's cookbook full of kid-friendly recipes and treats. The artwork is particularly cute, and goes a long way toward making each recipe look fun and doable. Each ingredient is illustrated, so even non – readers can see at a glance what to collect. The list of Good Manners is a priceless addition, and just what you'd expect from an icon of Southern hospitality.

Classics retold

Anthologies of children's stories are typically good bets for gifts, and The Kingfisher Book of Classic Animal Stories is a fine example for kids ages six through 10. Selected with care by children's author Sally Grindley, the stories are an inventive mix of favorite classics. Aesop's Fables and Just So Stories make an appearance, as do self – contained excerpts from Farmer Boy, The Wind in the Willows, Born Free, The Cricket in Times Square and more. To round out the treat, each of the 16 stories is paired with new illustrations from a different contemporary artist.

Fifteen years in the making, The Bill Martin Jr. Big Book of Poetry was worth the wait. Each of these 200 poems was hand – picked by much – loved and much – missed children's author Bill Martin Jr., who hoped to share his love for words and poetry with children of all ages. Mother Goose, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Christina Rossetti and Jack Prelutsky are just a few of the selected authors in this dream of a collection. Plus, many of the artists Martin loved best have contributed all-new artwork, which makes this anthology a visual and verbal delight.

If your kids already know these nursery stories by heart, or, heaven forbid, think they're too old for nursery stories at all, whip out There's a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales by Zoe B. Alley.

The best best friends

Writer James Marshall gave us a lifetime of characters who will never stop being funny, dear and spectacularly spot – on. The Stupids, the Cut – Ups, Eugene, Fox, Portly McSwine and Space Case are just a few from his more than 75 books, and don't forget his hysterical renderings of fairy tales like The Three Little Pigs and Hansel and Gretel. To rank them in order of wit and wonder would be an impossible task. However, too much can never be made of the particularly perfect duo of George and Martha. Marshall, who died in 1992, wrote and illustrated seven George and Martha books – 35 stories altogether – and all are collected in George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends. The adventures of the two hippos range from mild to outrageous, but always involve some kind of insight into the ups and downs and sideways of real friendship. The stories are super short – indeed, that is part of their charm – and always leave readers and listeners wanting more. The best reviews come from the little experts who sit on laps and hear these stories for the first or 500th time. George and Martha are, quite simply, tons of fun.

Making history If the working portcullis on the cover doesn't convince you, the gorgeous pop – up castle, cathedral and medieval bridge will: A Knight's City by Philip Steele is one nifty book of knights. Guided by Sir Hugo, readers ages six and up are privy to the sights, smells, sounds and sensibilities of Northern Europe in […]

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