Books To Get You Thinking Holiday Edition II

Without a doubt, books make the perfect gift for just about everyone on your list! Following up on last month’s selections of nonfiction and biography titles, here are books that would be perfect as gifts for family and friends who love a good work of fiction as well as for those who would appreciate books authored by leading chefs about their newest culinary creations to put on the table! From all of us at the Mercer County Library System, have a wonderful and joyous Holiday Season!

Gift Boxes


Fiction

Us by David Nicholls
Following on the heels of his earlier immensely successful novel One Day, David Nicholls weaves another delightful story revolving around the complexities of human emotions and relationships. The novel is based on the lives of Douglas - a biochemist, Connie - his artistic, colorful wife, and their son Ebee who is ready to leave for College and is steadily drifting away from his father. One day Connie informs Douglas that she is ready to walk out of their twenty-one years of marriage. A distraught Douglas insists the family still go on a long planned vacation to Europe hoping the time spent together would help rekindle old feelings and passions. The novel is narrated in the voice of Douglas and the author skillfully weaves the past with the present as readers witness their many moments of joy and sorrow, and Douglas’s struggle to win back his wife’s love and keep his family together.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
A hauntingly beautiful novel is set against the backdrop of World War II. The story opens with six year old Marie Laure, a child who is blind, and whose father teaches her to navigate the streets of Paris by building a wooden model of the city, complete with its streets and shops in perfect scale. When the Nazis invade France in 1940, they escape to live with her grand Uncle Etienne, a member of the Resistance in the coastal town of Saint Malo. Her path eventually converges with Werner Pfennig, a German who was orphaned as a young child in a mining town in Germany but quickly rose to the ranks of the elite Hitler Youth cell. Due to his prodigious talents in circuitry and radio mechanics, he is given the job of tracking down the Resistance. Underlying the page turning narrative are deeper issues facing Werner who is torn by the use of science for inflicting human suffering.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Set in South Carolina in the early nineteenth century, this powerful historical novel is based on the lives of Sarah Grimke, a woman born into a privileged, wealthy slave owning family, and Hettie, who was given to Sarah as a present on her eleventh birthday. It was a time when a woman was expected to marry and look after her home but Sarah yearned to study, become a lawyer,fight for women’s rights and battle against the injustice and cruelty of slavery. It was an arduous and painful journey as she breaks away from her family and traditions to go up North. Hettie, fearless and courageous, dreamed of freedom and of flying away some day from the shackles of slavery and bondage. Her spirit and hopes never wavered in the face of the torture and pain that she faced every day. The author skillfully weaves together Sarah’s story with the struggles and life of Hettie in this powerful work of historical fiction.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Deeply moving and poignant, the novel explores the life of a Chinese American family set in a small college town in Ohio during the seventies. James Lee, an American born son of Chinese immigrants is a History professor. His wife Marilyn is white with a lingering resentment at having to abandon a career in medicine in the face of motherhood and raising their three children: Nathan, Lydia and Hannah. Marilyn is anxious that Lydia follow her mother’s unfulfilled dream of becoming a doctor while all her father wants is for Lydia to be popular at school. The narrative is in the form of flashbacks as Lydia, the favorite daughter of the Lees goes missing and is one day found dead in the river. The tragic heartbreaking event and the search for answers behind Lydia’s disappearance and death lays bare the deep fissures between different cultures, different generations, and the overwhelming burden of living in a society where one is viewed as an outsider.

Still Life with Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen
Anna Quindlen, a successful Pulitzer Prize winning columnist and novelist, presents readers with a compelling story and portrait of a middle aged photographer. Rebecca Winter, once a successful artist, is now divorced from her overbearing, philandering husband and is facing a dwindling career and precarious finances. She decides to rent out her upper West Side Manhattan apartment to live in a small cottage in rural upstate New York. Life in the countryside was not what she was used to and a far cry from the streets of Manhattan but Rebecca meets new people, makes new friends and gradually finds a chance to reclaim her life as well as her flagging career. The book is a beautiful portrayal of human nature with all its insecurities and vulnerabilities and how it is always possible to change, reinvent and find a new meaning in life.


Cooking and Entertaining

Gold Bow
Mastering My Mistakes in the Kitchen: Learning to Cook with 65 Great Chefs and Over 100 Delicious Recipes by Dana Cowin
Dana Cowin, long time editor-in-chief of Food and Wine Magazine presents a collection of recipes that are designed to make cooking simple and foolproof for even the most inexperienced amateur venturing into the kitchen. The book is arranged into different sections by type of food beginning from starters and soups to salads, vegetables, poultry, meat, seafood, pastas, beans, grains, breakfast and finally desserts. Delectable recipes such as cheese soufflé, Udon noodle soup, swordfish kebabs with chermoula, green beans with arugula and lemon pesto, and braised chicken with leeks, mushrooms and peas are juxtaposed with gorgeous photographs showing off the final dishes along with related handy tips on preparation and cooking techniques from prominent chefs.

The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor by Gina Homulka
Since 2008, Gina Homulka has been writing her popular healthy eating blog, Skinnytaste.com. Now, with the publishing of her new book, readers have access to delicious healthy recipes that are aimed to please the entire family and make organizing everyday meals simple and stress free. The book starts with useful advice on stocking up the pantry with essentials, planning menus and shopping for necessary ingredients that would help organize the kitchen for an entire week of nutritious culinary creations. This is followed up with a whole range of low-calorie, delectable recipes arranged in different sections: wholesome soups and chilis, delightful sandwiches, tempting dips and appetizers, poultry, meat, fish and meatless entrées, enticing vegetable side dishes and scrumptious deserts.

Sunday Suppers: Recipes + Gatherings by Karen Mordechai
The idea for this book came from the Sunday Supper communal cooking center in Brooklyn, started in 2009 to promote closeness and camaraderie amongst families and communities through cooking and sharing meals together. The book is a collection of recipes that have been used in small gatherings in many different settings across the country from inside homes to the great outdoors. The book is organized into four different sections – Morning, Noon, Afternoon and Evening. Each section is rich with complete menus made up of delicious recipes and illustrations that echo the theme of simplicity and togetherness. The book is interspersed throughout with interesting facts about the recipes and ingredients and handy tips for preparation contained in the Cook’s Notes at the end of each recipe.

Make It Ahead by Ina Garten
With Holiday entertaining on many people’s minds, the popular Barefoot Contessa shares a delightful range of menus and recipes that can be prepared days in advance to take the stress out of last minute cooking and setting the table for guests. By planning and doing all the prep work for each dish in advance, serving up a delectable meal is no longer a formidable task. Garten has selected and shared with readers, specific dishes and recipes that actually taste better when made ahead of time, and along with the recipes she also includes valuable instructions on how to plan, prep and store the ingredients and dishes so they are ready to serve up later. Colorful glossy photographs adds to the beauty and appeal of dishes such as Stuffed Zucchini, Herb Roasted Fish and Roast Chicken with Bread and Arugula Salad.

Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking from London’s Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi
Ottolenghi is a London based chef and author, and this book is the latest addition to a line of immensely successful vegetarian cookbooks that he has written. There are over 150 delectable recipes using an array of vegetable combinations and unique spices, herbs and bold flavors that are organized by different cooking techniques: tossed, steamed, simmered, braised, grilled, roasted, fried, mashed, cracked, baked and sweetened. Ottolenghi takes inspiration from many different vegetable-based cuisines of the world including those from the Middle East and South East Asia. Creative recipes such as Spicy Chickpea and Bulgur Soup, Tomato and Pomegranate Salad, Apple and Rhubarb Pudding and Iranian Vegetable Stew with Dried Lime open up a wide variety of irresistible vegetarian options that are not only exotic but fairly simple to create!

-Nita Mathur

Books to Get You Thinking Gift Box

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