Tag Archives: cookbooks

In the Kitchen With Books

We begin our library blogging week with a guest post from Suzi (not to be confused with Suzy), who will, hopefully, be joining us at least once a month going forward. 


Note: this post is not vegetarian. It is gluten-free, nut-free, and soy-free.

In her book, How to Save A Life, Sara Zarr writes, “Everything tastes better when someone else fixes it for you.” I love good diner food and a waitress refilling my iced tea. For too long I was seduced by advertisers who, wanting to sell me their packaged food, told me that chopping vegetables is too much work.

However, at some point, endless club sandwiches for lunch and frozen entrees for dinner dull the taste buds and rob the pocketbook (did I mention tip the bathroom scale?). I started taking cookbooks out from the library, but I still wasn’t cooking, so the books just sat there, silently, on my kitchen table for three weeks until their respective due dates.

It’s not that I never learned how to cook. But for me, cooking is like riding a bike: I do it so infrequently each time I try a new recipe is like the first wobbly time without training wheels. I make three things well: meatloaf, quiche, and scrambled eggs. My mother and I made meatloaf together when I was a child, I have made quiche a thousand times, a thousand ways, and doesn’t everyone know how to make scrambled eggs?

I came across The Kitchen Counter Cooking School: how a few simple lessons transformed nine culinary novices into fearless home cooks, one day at work. I started reading it and was hooked. Maybe there was hope for me (the subtitle serves as a good summary: a chef works with nine women who for one reason or another have been subsisting on prepared food and the women together learn how to chop onions, braise beef and make tomato sauce from scratch).

I still wasn’t cooking, but my interest was piqued.

In time, I found two more books: Charlotte au Chocolat and Bread and Wine.  I happened to walk past a shelf at work and Charlotte au Chocolat whispered my name. A pink book always catches my eye, and this book happened to be a memoir about a girl whose mother managed a restaurant called “Upstairs at the Pudding” in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The book starts when Charlotte is about five and ends when she is about twenty. It is the story about a girl growing up in a restaurant. It is romantic, well written, and it makes you hungry while you are reading it.

While this book is decidedly not about cooking, and contains no recipes, it is about good food, and the people in this book believe in eating well. I found that by reading about good food, I became inspired to root around my fridge and make something. Before I knew it, I was taking leftover rice and duck and creating a sauce using mustard and marmalade. Do not be deceived: I had not made anything initially with duck—I had leftovers from when my parents took me to The Original Fish Market on their way to Michigan.

Suzi’s Leftover Duck and Rice


Leftover rice, 1 serving

Frozen broccoli, 1 serving

Leftover duck (or other meat),1serving

1 Tablespoon Mustard

1 Tablespoon Marmalade

Heat the rice and frozen broccoli in the microwave, about 1 or 2 minutes. Pull duck off the bone. While the rice and broccoli are heating up, take 1 T mustard and 1 T marmalade and mix them together, making a sweet and sour sauce. Serve immediately. Pour sauce over rice, meat, and broccoli. May be served with Greek yogurt. Makes 1 serving.

I found myself rereading Charlotte au Chocolat three times, for three reasons: it was well written, it fit in my purse, and I didn’t have another book about food on the horizon. That is when my friend Suzannah suggested the book Bread and Wine.

Bread and Wine is written in the same style as The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, essays with an occasional recipe. Shauna Niequist writes about food, writing, hospitality, and being the mother of small children and the wife of a musician. This was the book that wooed me back into my kitchen. The other night, I fixed chicken. I went to my cookbook shelf, found a recipe for chicken in Cheap Fast Good, and got out my dog-eared copy of The Kitchen Survival Guide to find out how to make rice. Yes, my skills are this basic.

I improvised. Instead of sautéing two onions, I used one, and I used the rest of the mushrooms in the fridge, since they were about to go bad. I forgot to add spices beforehand, so I added them afterwards, sprinkling my rice with dried orange peel, parsley, and basil. I had some salad, some Greek yogurt, and voila! Suzi is back in the kitchen, preparing food.

What are your favorite recipes? Cookbooks? Do you have trouble in the kitchen, or do you have tips for novice cooks? Talk to me in the comment section!








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Read It, Loved It, Bought It


It’s like this Erasmus guy knows me. My Amazon wishlist is larger than my book-buying budget, but thanks to the Library I can make better decisions about which books I want to own by checking them out first. Here are just a few of the many titles I’ve purchased after the “try before you buy” period.

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh. Why would you buy a book when you can read the blog posts for free on the internet? hyperboleBecause some people are just so darned funny that you want to support their livelihood. Brosh’s blunt descriptions of her weird childhood, adult struggles with depression and the oddball dogs with whom she has shared her life, are required reading for anybody with a dark sense of humor and an affinity for awkward people (or a similar awkward past). Illustrated with colorful vignettes just a few steps up from stick figure art (that’s not a complaint), Brosh’s collection is the perfect addition to my home library, so that I can go back to its absurdity and humor whenever I like, and not just when I’m near a screen or a device. Maybe if I’m really lucky, she’ll publish another book…

yogaThe Woman’s Book of Yoga and Health, Linda Sparrowe. When I decided to try yoga, I was too embarrassed to actually go to a class and interact with other human beings. I had the mistaken notion that all yoginis were a size two and incredibly spiritually advanced, and since I was neither, I should probably practice at home until I was a lean, laid-back adept (or could fake it reasonably well). Of the flurry of library books I tried, Sparrowe’s was the first one I bought: its clear illustrations/instructions, use of modifications and otherwise sensible advice about both the physical and spiritual practice of yoga helped me calm down a little and focus on the learning process instead of the person next to me at the studio I eventually started attending. Thanks for helping me get over myself, Linda Sparrowe!

Happy Herbivore Abroad, Lindsay S. Nixon. It’s really important to take cookbooks for a test drive before you buy them. happyOtherwise you’re going to end up with a shelf full of books you’ll never use, which is neither cost-effective nor tasty. Nixon’s collection of plant-based recipes made the cut because it presents a global sampler of delicious meals that will suit adventurous palates, but not send you all over town hunting for expensive, exotic ingredients. Nixon also tells interesting stories about the places she’s visited, which makes this a fun book to sit down and read at length. This cookbook paid for itself when I shared the recipe for German lentil stew with my parents, who enjoyed it so much that they made it again when I came to visit, then sent me home with a huge container of it as a thank-you. Now, that’s what I call the circle of life.

TFIOSThe Fault in Our Stars, John Green. I know, I know. Truth be told, I actually resisted this book for quite some time, despite hearing great things about it in the media and from other readers, because I’m always a little leery of the book “everybody” is reading. As it turns out, “everybody” is reading the book for very good reasons, some of which include Swedish hip-hop, a rant about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and the inescapable truth that the world is, indeed, not a wish-granting factory. You don’t get to choose whether or not you get your heart broken in this world, but you do get to choose the books that break your heart…and I choose this one, because I know that if it ever stops breaking my heart, I’ve probably lost some essential human quality that makes both love and empathy possible.

Your turn: do you use the Library to pre-shop for your permanent bookshelf? What titles have you checked out that made you say…


Leigh Anne
supporting the literary economy, one enjoyable read at a time


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Of Food & Science.


I tend to improvise a lot when I cook. After mastering a few beloved recipes from favorite cookbooks, and learning that just about anything tastes good with a solid base of fried onions and garlic, I’ve found that I rarely need to measure ingredients while cooking. Sometimes though, it’s fun to take a closer look at what I’m preparing and think about what might be happening on a molecular level.

eggs Luckily, the library has many fine books on not only cooking, but the science of cooking. A recent interview on NPR’s Splendid Table turned me onto the new book Egg: A Culinary Exploration of the World’s Most Versatile Ingredient. If you’ve ever wondered not only how to make the perfect scrambled or poached egg, but also why cooking it a certain way yields varying results, then this is the book for you. Consider for a moment all of the wonderful joys the egg brings us—pasta, custards, cakes, quiches, cookies. If you are interested in learning more about all the wonderful foods that are dependent on the humble egg, then this is the book for you.

keys  Of course, if you are interested in the science behind cooking, you have to check out one of Harold McGee’s books. Both Keys to Good Cooking and On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen should give you plenty “molecular gastronomy” to ponder while working in the kitchen.



cheese And for those cheese enthusiasts out there (of which I’m one) there is a new book just for you, titled simply The Science of Cheese. If you are not content to simply eat cheese, this book will teach you everything from the history of cheese to how new cheeses are created.



gulpIf you would like to move beyond the science happening in your kitchen to the science happening in your belly, then by all means check out Mary Roach’s latest book Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal about that most taboo of topics: digestion. Like her other great reads, Ms. Roach is able to take a somewhat unsavory subject and spin it into a series of fascinating, informative, and often very funny reads.


So how about you? What books on cooking (or science) are you savoring right now?



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When Life Gives You Lemons, Give Them to Me!

Happy National Limoncello Day! No seriously, it is. I know it sounds silly, and it may be. There are so many of these food and other “holidays” that it could start to make you apathetic about celebrating the ones that really count. Well, this one counts, for me at least. Lemon is my favorite dessert flavor and limoncello is my liquor/liqueur of preference. I add it to champagne, iced tea, lemonade and put it on strawberries. Have you tried it on vanilla ice cream? OMG!!  Do you know how easy it is to make you own limoncello? Four ingredients and a little patience are all you need. I’ve included a basic recipe and instructions below.

lemonsWhat if alcohol is not your thing, but lemons are? We actually have several cookbooks that concentrate on citrus fruits and lemons in particular, including…

The Lemon Lovers Cookbook by Peg Bailey – Believe it or not, this book contains more savory lemon recipes than sweet. My favorite section was the Lemon Pantry chapter, which included instructions for making lemon syrup, oil, vinegar, pepper, sugar, butter, chutney, marmalade and more!

Lemons: Growing, Cooking, Crafting by Kate Chynoweth and Elizabeth Woodson – Fascinating facts about lemons and their lore, yummy recipes, and homemade lemon lip balm, cold remedies, and cleaning products. The almighty lemon can do anything!

Lemons: A Country Garden Cookbook by Christopher Idone – I adore the artfully arranged, full-color photographs on each page of this lovely cookbook. Each chapter is pared down to a handful of essential lemon recipes. And fried lemon fritters? Yes, please!

Lemon Zest: More than 175 Recipes with a Twist by Lori Longbotham – Lemon recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between, including stocking up your pantry with lemon flavored items. The highlight of this book, however, is the 30+ recipes for lemonade.

Luscious Lemon Desserts by Lori Longbotham – TWO lemon cookbooks by the same author?!? I think I found my new favorite person…

bookcoverWant to try growing your very own lemon tree? Yes, you can, even in our climate. It just has to move indoors for the winter. I found this book to be very helpful when learning how to grow citrus trees for personal use — Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere by Laurelynn G. Martin and Byron E. Martin. We started our own Meyer lemon tree from seed last summer. So far it has grown to about 4 inches tall. Now, if we can just keep the cats away from it!

Stay Sour My Friends!
Melissa M.

Homemade Limoncello

Quantities in this are not exact. Everyone makes it to their own tastes, so you’re going to need to experiment to find your personal recipe. (You mean I need to make multiple batches? Darn!)


1 bottle (750 ml) of vodka -unflavored, 75-100 proof, but brand and expense is up to you

6-10 lemons, washed and dried (stickers removed!)

2 ½-4 cups sugar

3 ½-5 cups water


1. Empty vodka into a large jar or pitcher.

2. Peel the lemons, being careful to remove only the yellow layer, leaving all the white pith behind.

3. Put all the lemon peels into the jar with the vodka, making sure they are submerged in the liquid.

4. Cover the jar/pitcher and put it in a cool, dark place to steep for 4-14 days. DO NOT keep opening the lid to check it and DO NOT stir!

5. When the steeping process is complete to your satisfaction, strain the vodka mixture to remove the lemon peels.

6. Put the sugar and water into a saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, making sure all of the sugar is dissolved.

7. Let the sugar syrup cool completely.

8. Add the sugar syrup to the strained vodka mixture.

9. Store in lidded jars or bottles with caps in the freezer until ready to use.

This mixture will keep for months, but I can guarantee it won’t last that long!


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C Is for Cookie. That’s Good Enough for Me!



It’s that time of year. No, I don’t mean the time to buy and wrap more presents than you can afford. And also not the time to visit with people you really wouldn’t choose to hang out with, if you in fact actually had a choice. (Or is it??) I mean that it’s time to get in that kitchen and bake some cookies! These treats can be your homemade replacement for the usual capitalistic holiday gifts or just your way of saying a sweet “I love you” to those you’re going to be feeding over the next few weeks.

This week, my department will be holding its second annual Cookie Day. All of my colleagues bring in cookies, set them out on a big table in our office and we invite all of our fellow library staff to partake, at their leisure, throughout the day. It’s our way of saying thank you to those who work with us all year long.  (Feel free to copy our idea for your own group. It’s really rather low cost and low maintenance for the individuals throwing the shindig.)

But of course, in the true spirit of the holidays, I must go overboard. I’m not going to make just the one cookie to bring to Cookie Day. I’m going to be making at least 10 kinds of cookies, bars, and chocolate treats this season. I’ve given the members of my immediate family the option to select two types of baked goods. Plus, there are some cookies that I just HAVE to make for myself. So far, my baking list includes: buckeye bars, pumpkin snickerdoodles (A repeat from the pumpkin birthday extravaganza. Yes, they were THAT good.), at least three kinds of chocolate chip cookies, fudge, peppermint chocolate bark, lemon drops, and my current favorite thing – snickerdoodle blondies. There are a few other cookies nagging me and pulling on my heartstrings that will probably see the light of day as well.

As you can tell from the links above, I find most of my inspiration and recipes online. (Yay, Pinterest!) But as some of you who have read my posts before know, I absolutely ADORE a good cookbook. Here are a few that I found to help with your holiday cookie baking needs:

The Cookiepedia: Mixing, Baking, and Reinventing the Classics by Stacy Adimando

Better Homes and Gardens Very Merry Cookies

Very Vegan Christmas Cookies by Ellen Brown

The Complete Photo Guide to Cookie Decorating by Autumn Carpenter

Crazy about Cookies: 300 Scrumptious Recipes for Every Occasion & Craving by Krystina Castella

The Cookie Jar Cookbook: 65 Recipes for Classic, Chunky & Chewy Cookies

Cookies, Cookies & More Cookies! by Lilach German

The Daily Cookie: 365 Tempting Treats for the Sweetest Year of Your Life by Anna Ginsberg

Good Housekeeping Test Kitchen Cookie Lover’s Cookbook: Gooey, Chewy, Sweet & Luscious Treats

Chocolate Chip Cookies: Dozens of Recipes for Reinterpreted Favorites by Carey Jones & Robyn Lenzi

The Art of the Cookie by Shelly Kaldunski

Cookies at Home with the Culinary Institute of America by Todd Knaster

Gluten-Free Cookies: From Shortbreads to Snickerdoodles, Brownies to Biscotti: 50 Recipes for Cookies You Crave by Luane Kohnke

Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies by Alice Medrich

The Ultimate Shortcut Cookie Book: More than 800 Scrumptious Recipes that Start with Refrigerated Cookie Dough, Cake Mix, Brownie Mix, or Ready-to-Eat Cereal by Camilla V. Saulsbury

One Sweet Cookie: Celebrated Chefs Share Favorite Recipes by Tracey Zabar

So as you can see, we have cookie cookbooks for those willing to spend their entire weekend decorating tiny crisps of sugared dough to the hilt, as well as those who would rather throw some things into a pan and be done with it. Everyone can make something!

Happy Holiday Baking!
-Melissa M.

P.S. This is my favorite cookie cookbook. It’s the one I bought my mother as a Christmas present over 30 years ago and it is the one I did a little happy dance about when I found in a used book store.


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Stacking ‘Em Up: Our Favorite Reads From 2013

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a library blog in possession of a good staff must be in want of a best books post. Library workers are frequently their own best customers, passing titles back and forth with reckless abandon, buttonholing colleagues in stairwells to insist they check out the book that kept us up late swooning (or shivering). Nothing brings us more joy, however, than turning those efforts outward and sharing our favorites with you.

The Eleventh Stack team consumed a mountain of reading this year (probably taller than Richard, and he’s pretty tall). Here are some of the ones we enjoyed most.


turncoatThe Turncoat by Donna Thorland

Though labeled historical fiction, this book has a passionate and sizzling romance at its heart, so I would call it historical romance as well. The first book in the Renegades of the Revolution series, I loved this dangerous romance set amid the intrigues of Revolutionary War Philadelphia. Quaker country-girl-turned-rebel-spy Kate Grey falls for British officer Peter Tremayne despite their opposing allegiances. I especially enjoyed its life meets fiction aspect as George Washington, John Andre, General Howe, and Peggy Shippen all make appearances here. I look forward to reading more in the series from this debut author. Thorland, who is also a filmmaker, made a fascinating book trailer; I think it would make a great movie.


Detroit: An American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff

My poor hometown. Native metro-Detroiter and award-winning journalist Charlie LeDuff writes a raw and thoroughly readable portrait of the Motor City’s state of emergency, from its abandoned neighborhoods, horrible city services, double-digit unemployment rates, and rampant crime to the die-hard residents who refuse to give up. A moving and frightening account of the decline of a great American city.

Melissa F.

I spent most of 2013 hanging out with some questionable, unreliable, but incredibly memorable characters from the Gilded Age.  You don’t get much more eyebrow-raising than Odalie from The Other Typist, Suzanne Rindell’s debut that has been described as “part Hitchcock, part Patricia Highsmith, and part Gatsby.” It’s a phenomenal, can’t-put-down read that I’ve been recommending all year long.  Also of note is The Virgin Cure , Ami McKay’s historical fiction story of a twelve year old orphan in 1870s New York that is based on the true story of one of her relatives.  

The OrchardistAnd then there was benevolent Talmadge from The Orchardist. I adored Amanda Coplin’s luminous debut novel with its grand, overlapping themes of morality and religion, of being one with the earth and the eternal struggle of good versus evil. It’s been compared to The Grapes of Wrath (this one is way better). Like Steinbeck, Amanda Coplin joins the list of authors who have given us a true American classic.

(Other highly recommended books in case the Gilded Age isn’t your thing: Tenth of December and In Persuasion Nation, both by George Saunders; Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan; Between Shades of Gray, by Ruta Sepetys, The Bird Saviors, by William J. Cobb, When It Happens to You, by Molly Ringwald (yes, THAT Molly Ringwald!), Still Life with Oysters and Lemon and Dog Years by Mark Doty (listen to the audio version); Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon, and Songdogs, by Colum McCann.)

What can I say? In the words of Sinatra, it was a very good year.

JessBurial Rites, Hannah Kent

If you’ve had good experiences with Alice Hoffman and Geraldine Brooks (Kent even gives a shout out to Brooks as a mentor in her acknowledgements), then this is for you.

In rural Iceland, 1829, Agnes Magnusdottir has been tried and accused of murder – and now must await execution in her home district. No prison means she’s forced upon a family who obviously wants nothing to do with her. Over the next months, Agnes is put to work on the farm. She slowly begins to open up about her messy past to a young priest, chosen for a long ago kindness, and to the wife of the household, who begins to see a Agnes as woman who has been worn down by a harsh life. Based on true story of one of the last two executions in Iceland, Kent deftly blends some amazing research with strong prose to weave a story about woman who was truly a victim of her circumstances.

SuzyTraveling Sprinkler, Nicholson Baker. Suzy really enjoyed this book a lot, but is not here to tell us about it because she is off riding her bike someplace not currently buried under several feet of snow. We are extremely jealous of very happy for Suzy, and hope she comes home soon to tell us more about the book.

Leigh Anne

Much to my surprise, the two books I’ve enjoyed most this year were both set during World War II. I’ve never been much of a war buff, but that’s a testament to how the power of good fiction can make you more interested in history. In this case, the novels were Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life and Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity.

Life After Life –the tale of an Englishwoman who keeps reincarnating as herself and trying to kill lifeafterlifeHitler–has cropped up on a number of best/notable lists this year, including the New York Times, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, and I’ve already reviewed it earlier this year, so let me just say this: what an ending. When I read the last few sentences, and the light bulb over my head finally went on, I was amazed at how cleverly Atkinson had made her point: no matter how hard we strive as individuals, we can never act out of context. We always need other people to help us achieve our objectives, even if we are strong and clever.

verityCode Name Verity takes us behind enemy lines as Verity the spy and Maddie the pilot tell their stories in alternating sections. The crux of this novel–which I also reviewed earlier this year–is truth: who’s telling it, who’s hiding it, and how flexible it can be depending on how high the stakes are. For Maddie and Verity, the stakes are very high, indeed, and I loved that the book, while intended for a teen audience, didn’t shy away from the horrors of war…or deliver a tidy happy ending. If you want a great portrait of what it must have been like to be a teenager during WWII, pick up this novel….but be prepared to have All Of The Feelings. If you adore Wein as much as I do after you’re done, you’ll want to move on to her 2013 release, Rose Under Fire, in which pilot Rose Justice is captured and sent to the concentration camp Ravensbruck.

It was really hard to pick my favorites from what turned out to be an amazing run of excellent reading this year. Some other books I devoured include Letters From Skye (historical romance), Longbourn (historical fiction), and The Son (epic southwestern family saga). And now I must stop, before I blog your ear off…

bookcover Joelle 

I do love fantasy books! My favorites for this year were The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker and The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books have already achieved positive critical acclaim, but I will add mine:

The Golem is created by a mysterious and mischievous Rabbi as a bride for a young man who is set to travel to New York from Poland. The Jinni had been trapped for centuries in a lamp which also made its way to New York City. They both try to fit in to society with their separate supernatural talents, but recognize each other as different right away. It is interesting to see these magical beings from two different cultures coming together. The author creates characters with unusual and distinctive personalities.

ocean Neil Gaiman is the master of creating fantasy worlds that do not follow any specific cultural tradition, yet are somehow universal. A man journeys back to his old home town, and is drawn to a place only half remembered. The reader is transported to the mind of a seven year old, a time in a person’s life when one is very vulnerable, and when one can accept magic as a matter of fact.

Nestled behind the International Poetry Room on CLP-Main’s second floor, you’ll find one of my favorite places in the Library.  The Oversize Book Room is home to volume upon volume of giant, gorgeous books. These are books that are graphic-heavy, photo-heavy, and often really heavy in weight, and therefore they do not fit on our regular book shelves/make great impromptu weapons.  Fashion, art, landscape photography, crafts and home repair are some of the subjects that you can find here.   One day while helping a patron find another book in this section, I stumbled upon the splendid  Jack London, Photographer. This is my favorite book of 2013 because it exemplifies what I love most about the Library and the serendipity that lives here.  I had no idea that Jack London was a photographer, and a talented one at that!  This gem contains somewhat disparate, at least in terms of location, photo collections.  They are a fascinating  look at early 20th century history through the eyes of a classic author.  Chapters have titles like ” The People of the Abyss,”  which is a stark look at impoverished Londoners in 1902. Battlefields are a subject as well, such as  those of  the Russo-Japanese war of 1904 and the Mexican Revolution of 1914.  I loved this book because it was a rejuvenating break from my usual reading of text-heavy new fiction and new nonfiction.


For me this was an unusual year, and my reading reflected all the strangeness. I found myself reading old (Kim by Rudyard Kipling), new (A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki), rereads (The Final Solution by Michael Chabon and The Fall by Albert Camus), pastiche (The Mandela of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu), Buddhist fiction (Buddha Da by Anne Donovan), science fiction (Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone by Ian MacDonald), and the truly, wonderfully bizarre (Duplex by Kathryn Davis).

Part of the unusual nature of all this is the fact that, thematically, there is a great deal these books have in common. There are all kinds of connections between them, come to think of it. And really, there is not a book listed above that you can go wrong with, but, since we are picking favorites, here we go…

My favorite book of the year turns out to be a tie between the first two listed: A Tale for the Time Being, and that hoary old chestnut, Kim. Both of these books surprised, in different ways. I was frankly stunned by how good Kim (and Rudyard Kipling) is. I’d always thought of Kipling as just another dead old white guy, with a penchant for British colonialism and simplistic stories, who might easily be ignored for, oh, 50-plus years or so. And was, by me.

It really is delightful to wake up every day and realize how very, very wrong you can be.


Ozeki’s book is difficult to describe, so I’ll let the author speak for herself (from her website):

A Tale for the Time Being is a powerful story about the ways in which reading and writing connect two people who will never meet. Spanning the planet from Tokyo’s Electric Town to Desolation Sound, British Columbia, and connected by the great Pacific gyres, A Tale for the Time Being tells the story of a diary, washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox, and the profound effect it has on the woman who discovers it.

Kim is part quest–for self and for meaning–, part old-fashioned adventure via the time-honored motif of the journey, and, consistently, a fine, penetrating story on what it means to be human.

Yes indeed, how very good it is to wake up each and every day.

Melissa M.

5In5Of course my favorite book this year was a cookbook, specifically Michael Symon’s 5 in 5: 5 Fresh Ingredients + 5 Minutes = 120 Fantastic Dinners. I’ve watched this man on television so many times now that as I was reading the recipes I could hear them, inside my head, being read to me in his voice. Now, Michael does cheat the five ingredients rule a little because he uses items from his pantry that are not part of that total number. The first section of the book, after the introduction, is a list of what items should be in your pantry at all times. These include things like extra virgin olive oil, a variety of vinegars, pasta, canned beans, bread crumbs, salt, pepper, and other spices. You probably already have most of those in your kitchen cupboards, so no worries there. The recipes are not complicated; most have only 3-4 steps. This is food you could cook on a weeknight and would want to eat. Plus, who wouldn’t love a cookbook with a chapter called “On a Stick”? Foods on a stick rule!

There you have it! Your turn. What were your favorite reads of 2013, whether new finds or old favorites?


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It’s Pumpkin Season!

pumpkinsI know, I know. It’s actually been pumpkin season for at least a month now. As soon as Starbucks rolls out their pumpkin spice latte, people go crazy thinking it’s fall. They want to start raking leaves, wearing sweaters and craving other autumnal activities, even if it is still 75 degrees outside.

There is at least one person at my house who goes bonkers for anything pumpkin flavored. It certainly doesn’t hurt that his birthday is on October 31st. So while planning his Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza, I began to wonder what kind of pumpkin books we had in the collection. Turns out that we have quite a bit, even besides the expected children’s items. Here are a few that stood out to me…

Carving Pumpkins:
Carving the Perfect Pumpkin [DVD]
Extreme Pumpkin Carving by Vic Hood
Extreme Pumpkins: Diabolical Do-It-Yourself Designs to Amuse Your Friends and Scare Your Neighbors by Tom Nardone
Carving Pumpkins by Dana Meachen Rau
How to Carve Freakishly Cool Pumpkins by Sarah L. Schuette

Holiday Pumpkins by Georgeanne Brennan
Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito – (Yes, pumpkin is one of the 10!)
Pumpkins: Over 75 Farm-Fresh Recipes
Pumpkin: A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year by DeeDee Stovel

Growing the Biggest Pumpkin:
Lords of the Gourd: The Pursuit of Excellence[DVD]
Backyard Giants: The Passionate, Heartbreaking, and Glorious Quest to Grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever by Susan Warren

Picture Books for Kids:
Ready for Pumpkins by Kate Duke
The Perfect Pumpkin Hunt by Gail Herman
How Big Could Your Pumpkin Grow? by Wendell Minor
It’s Pumpkin Day, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff
Night of the Pumpkinheads by Michael J. Rosen; pumpkin carvings by Hugh McMahon

Other Items that I’m Sure Have Nothing to Do with Actual Pumpkins:
Pumpkin Teeth: Stories by Tom Cardamone
The Pumpkin Man by John Everson
The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field by Mike Michalowicz
The Pumpkin Eater by Penelope Mortimer
Pumpkin Scissors: The Complete Series [DVD]

Happy Autumn!
-Melissa M.

P.S. Just in case you’re wondering, the Pumpkin-Themed Birthday Extravaganza will begin with pumpkin French toast bake and pumpkin pie smoothies for breakfast. Pumpkin mac-n-cheese will be the lunch special. Then, there will be pumpkin-shrimp bruschetta, pumpkin soup, roasted pumpkin, arugula and dried cherry salad and pumpkin ravioli with sage browned butter for dinner. We’ll finish up with pumpkin tiramisu and a side of pumpkin snickerdoodle cookies for dessert. I also have recipes for a few pumpkin cocktails! ;)


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