Books to Get You Thinking Holiday Edition II

Books undoubtedly make the perfect gift for just about everyone on your list with a range of genres, subjects and content to fit all possible areas of interest. Following last month’s selection of books covering nonfiction, biography and memoirs, here are some varied titles that would enthrall friends and family who love a good work of fiction or who are looking to whip up some new and scrumptious culinary delights in the kitchen! From all of us at the Mercer County Library System, have a wonderful and joyous Holiday Season!


The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
Kristin Hannah’s new book is a poignant, spellbinding story set against the backdrop of German-occupied France during World War II. The novel revolves around the lives of Vianne Mauriac and her eighteen year old sister Isabelle, both caught in the unimaginable horrors of war and the very different but inconceivably hard choices each had to face. Vianne’s quiet idyllic world in the small village of Carriveau is shattered when her husband is commissioned to fight off the German invasion, leaving her with their young daughter to face the Nazis at home. Isabelle joins the Resistance where she undertakes the perilous work of shepherding Allies from downed aircraft across the Pyrenees into Spain. Not afraid to face the escalating dangers, the food shortages and insurmountable difficulties, the sisters are a testament to the singular courage and indelible human spirit to triumph while defying all odds.

A Strangeness in My Mind by Orhan Pamuk
This beautifully penned novel by Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, recipient of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Literature, is a reflection of his deep and abiding love for his country and for the city of Istanbul. The book resounds with the sights and sounds of the streets and alleys of the city, its colorful history and culture, the events spanning the last half century, and its lost glory. Central to the book is Mevlut Karatas’ life and experiences, a boy from a village who moves to the city of Istanbul and ekes out a living as a street food vendor by day and a boza seller, an ancient Turkish drink, by night. Much of his extended family have moved to the city from distant poor villages and it is through their voices that the novel focuses on the contradictions and mental conflicts that arise between traditional beliefs and the emerging modern culture and values.

A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler
A powerful family saga, the novel revolves around three generations of the Whitshank family. Abby and Red Whitshank have been married for almost fifty years and are now in their early 70s with four grown children. They are still living in the beautiful Baltimore house that Red’s father had constructed in 1936. As the years take their toll on both Abby and Red, their dutiful son Stem and his wife move back to take care of the aging parents. Denny, the black sheep of the family, also moves back. There is nothing exceptional about this family but by switching back and forth between the years, interweaving stories from the different characters, Anne Tyler skillfully explores the relationships between the members of the family – spouses and siblings, parents and children. Despite all the differences and underlying tensions, the feeling of togetherness still draws the family back to each other and to the home they grew up in.

A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
This sweeping novel encompassing the World War II period and its aftermath is a companion volume to Kate Atkinson’s previously acclaimed Life After Life, published in 2013. Central to this work of historical fiction is the Todd family and Teddy Todd who serves as an RAF bomber pilot during the Second World War. The Todd family living through the War comes alive in the pages. Gliding back and forth in time, readers watch the young Teddy growing up gentle, cheerful, brave and honorable as different facets of his life unfold – bomber pilot, husband, father and grandfather. Not expecting to live through the War he must now a face a future and a struggle to live a good quiet life in the face of the changes that swept over England in the sixties and beyond.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Fans of the movie The Martian, released earlier this year, will enjoy reading Andy Weir’s book on which the movie is based. A riveting work of pure science fiction, the book is about Mark Watney, a NASA astronaut who is part of a space expedition to Mars. He is presumed dead after a violent storm on Mars and is left abandoned there while the rest of the crew head back to Earth in the spaceship. The book is about Watney’s remarkable story of survival in the arid, lifeless surroundings where he must struggle to keep alive for 1,412 days till the next Mars expedition could rescue him. With just limited rations of food and water left behind, Watney drives human ingenuity to its limits, devising remarkable ways to subsist. Readers will find fascinating arithmetic and science embedded in the twists and turns of Mark Watney’s adventures on Mars.

Cooking and Entertainment

Star studded red gift box
Near and Far: Recipes Inspired by Home and Travel by Heidi Swanson
Heidi Swanson’s love for cooking is inspired by her surroundings and the places she has travelled. A kaleidoscope of vegetarian recipes from different countries, interspersed with beautiful photographs from near and far, make the book a culinary delight as well as a feast for the eyes. Swanson begins with recipes that have originated from the weather, produce, and the range of textures and flavors surrounding the author in her hometown of San Francisco. The latter half of the book contains recipes from Morocco, France, India and Japan. Each chapter starts with recipes organized around lunch, dinner, drinks, and treats and closes with breakfast plans for the following day. For the home chef’s convenience, each section is complete with a list of basics for the pantry that makes cooking cuisine from that area a breeze.

Laura in the Kitchen: Favorite Italian American Recipes Made Easy by Laura Vitale
At the age of twelve, Laura Vitale left her home in Southern Italy for America with her parents. Homesick, she turned to cooking her favorite Italian sauce that she used to make with her grandmother. Working at her father’s Pizzeria for many years, she is now the popular host of a cooking show on TV and on YouTube. In her very first cookbook, Laura Vitale focuses on simple recipes that can be made by anyone. Laura also shares her secrets of how to have delicious home-cooked meals ready in minutes on hectic weekday evenings with tips on stocking the pantry, refrigerator and freezer and simple prep work on weekends. Here readers will also find an enticing collection of Vitale’s favorite recipes that include hearty soups, quick fix dinners, entrees, salads and sides, luscious deserts as well as choices for breakfast and brunch.

The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Dinnertime: Comfort Classics, Freezer Food, 16-Minute Meals, and Other Delicious Ways to Solve Supper! by Ree Drummond
Ree Drummond focuses exclusively on dinnertime in this beautifully illustrated cookbook, taking the anguish out of planning evening suppers with more than 125 unique flavorful recipes. Putting together the most important meal of the day using a variety of fresh ingredients becomes a snap for busy families with Ree’s tips for prepping food and stocking up the fridge, freezer and pantry with a comprehensive list of basics. Gorgeous photos and step-by-step instructions make it simple to follow the recipes. The recipes are arranged in different categories as breakfast for dinner, soup for dinner, salad for dinner, sides and desserts with many options of mixing and matching to create the perfect dinner spread. Delectable dishes include homemade enchilada sauce, eggs and tortillas combined into mouthwatering Huevos Rancheros, tomato tart, kale citrus salad, amazing Greek yogurt pancakes, BBQ Jalapeno poppers and many more.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl
In Fall 2009, Ruth Reichl, then editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine, found her long association with her beloved magazine ending abruptly when Conde Nast, the parent company, decided to close production of the 79 year old magazine. In the months that followed, Reichl sought comfort in the sanctuary of her kitchen and in the food that she loved to cook. The book itself is part memoir and part cookbook with gorgeous photography done by Mikkel Vang. The pages are replete with delicious recipes that echo the changing colors of the seasons around the beautiful and picturesque Hudson Valley home of the author and lyrical excerpts taken from the daily journal she wrote during the year:
Rain-soaked streets. Misty air. Van Morrison pours from passing car. Café au lait, lemon pudding cake, blood orange juice. Happy to be home.
-Nita Mathur

Books to get you Thinking box


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