As you can imagine, I tend to buy books over the gift-giving season There are so many books that I could recommend for gifts that it boggles my mind. However, that’s my problem and not yours … as I’ve decided to select ten books that have been published within the last year that are not coffee table books and are an eclectic mix of topics. Without further ado (since there’s a turkey that awaits my attention), here is my list:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a masterful book about eating home-grown and local food for one year. “This story about good food begins in a quick-stop convenience market.” It’s an essential read by a writer who knows how to keep you glued to the page.
The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters. Waters discusses technique and philosophy while providing deliciously simple recipes. “My delicious revolution began when, young and naive, I started a restaurant and went looking for good-tasting food to cook.”
The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War by David Halberstam. Winsted native and noted historian David Halberstam’s last book focuses on the Korean War. Publisher’s Weekly described the book like this: “What distinguishes this version by Halberstam (who died this year in a California auto crash) is his reportorial skill, honed in Vietnam in Pulitzer-winning dispatches to the New York Times. His pounding narrative, in which GIs and generals describe their coldest winter, whisks the reader along, even though we know the ending.”
Endless Universe: Beyond the Big Bang by Paul Steinhardt. In understandable language, armchair physicists will enjoy a ride that stretches one’s mind to its limits of thinking. Booklist gave it a starred review and said, “In the big bang, most physicists hear the violent beginning of everything. For theoretical physicists Steinhardt and Turok, however, that bang is but an echo, resounding within a bold new cyclical theory of the cosmos.”
iPod & iTunes: The Missing Manual by Jude Biersdorfer. Is there anything more to say? For anyone on your list who is getting an iPod for Christmas, be sure to tuck this along side that essential audio companion.
Mountain Rescue Doctor: Wilderness Medicine in the Extremes of Nature by Christopher Van Tilburg. This is a fast-paced accounting of rescues and wilderness medicine on Mt. Hood, Oregon told from the perspective of a mountaineering MD. “I holler back as Jim begins to lower me into the crack in the earth. I can’t see much. Not the bottom of the canyon. Not the cliff. Not the nearly dead patient lying on a ledge halfway to the creek.”
Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Bird by Andrew Blechman. Peace dove or flying rat? It all depends on who you ask. Pigeons were domesticated about the same time as dogs and thus they have a long history intertwined with humans, a relationship that is fully explored in this fascinating book. It’s amazing how little we may know about the “common” things in life.
The Private Lives of the Impressionists by Sue Roe. Publisher’s Weekly wrote, “From Monet and Pissarro’s first meeting in Paris in 1860 to art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel’s influential 1886 Impressionist exhibition in New York City, the group known as the Impressionists—Manet, Monet, Pissarro, Cézanne, Renoir, Degas, Sisley, Morisot and Cassatt—struggled to build their reputations, support themselves financially and create meaningful personal lives.”
Truck: a Love Story by Michael Perry. Booklist gave this book a starred review and said, “One wouldn’t think that repairing a beat-up old pickup could become a life-altering undertaking. And yet, for Perry, it was all that and more: an epic adventure that encompassed love, diplomacy, a little hydroponics, and even some danger (like setting yourself on fire).”
Unbowed: a Memoir by Wangari Maathai. The first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize and the first East and Central African woman to earn a doctorate, Maathai is the mother of the Green Belt Movement that is driving the reforestation of her homeland of Kenya. She recalls the forested paradise of her youth and her courageous and innovative activism to reclaim that lost paradise even when beatings, arrests, and death threats intervened along her path.
Ann Marie is the Library Director of the Oliver Wolcott Library