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Happy Thanksgiving week.

As the holiday season approaches, perhaps you are beginning to think about what to do when your guests arrive. Perhaps you need non-political topics to discuss. Maybe you need some new inspiration in the kitchen for all the meals you will be sharing. Perhaps you need a cooking activity for a few people to tackle together. Maybe you need things to entertain kids while adults talk. Maybe you need items that spark intergenerational conversations. Maybe you are the one visiting others and need a perfect gift for your hosts. Lucky for any of you with any of these needs, or anyone who just need some great gift giving ideas, we found a few oversized books with fun illustrations, and a few cookbooks with mouth watering recipes that can help. We truly believe all of these books will provide hours of entertainment for anyone perusing their pages. Enjoy!

Ottolenghi Simple: A Cookbook Cover ImageOttolenghi Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi (2018). This new book helps home cooks to live a flavorful kitchen dream! Believe it or not, these are Ottolenghi recipes with ten ingredients or less, most of which can be made in under a 45 minutes. From spending time with Ottolenghi’s  newest brilliant book I’ve learned that: one can lightly grill grapes on skewers (in a stovetop grill pan!) to accompany a silky burrata hors d’oeuvre plate, that zucchini loves to be served with peas (in a soup, on a platter sprinkled with oregano), and that butternut soup can come alive with curry and harrissa, and sprinkled with toasted pumpkin seeds. Believes me, the list goes on and on and on with enough new exciting dishes to try for throughout next year. Roasted Whole Cauliflower with Green Tahini Dip? Wow. So many of of his 300 pages of recipes are plant-based, verdantly vibrant, and infused with flavorful vegetables that meat actually takes a backseat – though, don’t despair, there are still two juicy chapters full of succulent fish, lamb, and chicken dishes. Please note that “Papardelle with Rose Harissa, Black Olives and Capers” just many eek out our family’s go-to, classic Marcella Hazan Spaghetti Bolognese recipe. ~Lisa Cadow

Apéritif: Cocktail Hour the French Way Cover ImageAperitif: Cocktail Hour the French Way by Rebekah Peppler (2018): If you’ve ever had the pleasure of dining chez les francais, the first thing you will notice is the elegant simplicity of their appetizers. They favor small, salty bites that please the palette and interesting, bubbly drinks which don’t fill up guests before the main course arrives. This book is bursting with observations and ideas that author Rebekah Peppler collected during her time living and dining in France. It features fresh simple recipes low-alcohol  drinks and high-taste appetizers that anyone who entertains should have in their repertoire such as simply fried potato chips, zippy marinated olives, cheese puffs. This book makes for the perfect, sophisticated hostess gift this season – and the next.  ~Lisa Cadow

A World of Cities Cover ImageA World of Cities by James Brown (2018): The pictures in this oversized book remind us of vintage travel posters. Their bold graphics inspire.  The fun facts sprinkled over each page provide many points for interesting discussions. The pages also give fun tidbits for all the fact-obsessed people throughout the world to add to their repertoire. The 30 dazzling cities Mr. Brown highlights should inspire even the most reluctant arm-chair traveller. Truly a gorgeous conversation starter, and a great gift! ~ Lisa Christie

Everything & Everywhere: A Fact-Filled Adventure for Curious Globe-Trotters Cover ImageEverything and Everywhere: A fact filled adventure for curious globe trotters by Marc Martin (2018): This journey around the world is crammed with busy pictures and words that discuss the things and people that make the places depicted unique. The pages almost leap with exuberance into the readers’ imaginations. A superb way to discover, or be reminded how interesting this world can be. ~ Lisa Christie

Happy Thanksgiving to all who celebrate that holiday this week; and, happy holidays to all.

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While it is hard to top the list the Pages in the Pub presenters gave us in November or the one that BOOK BUZZ students gave us earlier this month, for those of you still needing gift suggestions, we have a few books for you to try. We truly hope our list helps you succeed with your last minute present shopping. Happy Holidays!

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Adults

Clever Novels for Fiction Lovers
Nutshell Cover ImageHomegoing Cover Image

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016) – I heard about this retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of an unborn fetus while in the UK this summer. I was skeptical, but since I love most of Mr. McEwan’s work I read it as soon as it was available.  WOW!  As Lisa Cadow said in our previous review  – this novel is treasure. Told from the completely unique perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. As Lisa Cadow said, this modern-day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – A perfect debut novel to give to people who like to discover new authors. The work spans eight generations of characters living in Ghana, the UK and the USA. Thank you Liza Bernard for bringing this to our attention. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Must Read Memoirs, with Belly Laughs

You'll Grow Out of It Cover Image

You’ll Grow Out of It! by Jessi Klein (2016) – Recommended by Lucinda Walker, librarian extraordinaire, during Pages in the Pub, this laugh out loud, poignant, insightful memoir was exactly what I needed to counteract the vitriol of the recent election. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Book Lovers Who Have Everything

Sense and Sensibility Cover ImageMadame Bovary: Provincial Lives Cover ImageGreat Expectations Cover ImageAnna Karenina Cover Image

Assorted Classics such as Sense and Sensibility, Madame Bovary, Inferno (for example),  from the Penguin Clothbound Classic series. Or, you might prefer the Word Cloud Classics faux leather series with  Great Expectations , Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina to name a few. Titles in both these series are gorgeous and reasonably priced. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Closet Mystery Lovers (We review a few more of these as they make great gifts.)

A Great Reckoning Cover ImageThe Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageI Let You Go Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover Image

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016) – Somehow Ms. Penny cast of characters in her lovely Quebec Village of Three Pines makes murder comforting. The latest instalment of her Inspector Gamache series is well plotted, infused with poetry and just a great end of summer read.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (2016) – Another superb Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. This time a young girl is attacked and left for dead, but instead suffers severe brain damage.  Years later her grandmother asks Guido to investigate. The tale weaves illegal immigration, refugees and mental illness together.  It also allows us to spend time with Guido and his superb family. Enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh (2016) – THE thriller for summer. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist and you will lose a day of productivity as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series will not be disappointed. This had me entertained for hours en route home from the UK. ~ Lisa Christie

For History Buffs
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure Cover ImageThe Night Watch Cover Image

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – This one is for fiction lovers. Yes, another WWII novel, but worth reading.  This time the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and at the start of the war, all told backwards chronologically.  May of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers, the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and connection they share link the tales. The prose is beautiful and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during war memorable. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup (2002) – This one is for nonfiction readers. I haven’t finished this yet as someone (hello Langhus Family) just gave it to me as gift, but I am loving this true tale of how the wine industry in France was saved during WWII. Combine this paperback with a bottle from France, and voila you have a perfect holiday gift combination. ~ Lisa Christie

For Food Lovers 

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The easiest way to find great cookbooks is to visit our recent post on great cookbooks.

For Travellers and Others Who like Books about Cool Stuff

The Best Things in Life Are Free Cover ImageMap Stories: The Art of Discovery Cover ImageGreat City Maps Cover Image@Natgeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos Cover Image

The Best Things in Life Are Free by Lonely Planet (2016) – Just when you thought Lonely Planet had covered all the travel book angles, they do it again. This time a guide to all things free as you travel this world. Have fun not spending money as a result of owning this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Map Stories: The art of discovery by Francisca Matteoli – The author uses twenty places and voyages that inspired her to show how maps emerge from discovery and how discovery creates maps. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great City Maps: A historical journey through maps, plans and paintings by DK Smithsonian (2016) – This is like a museum in a book. The authors take you through maps of various cities and show you how cities are shaped by events, geography, and the people inhabiting. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

@Nat Geo: The most popular instagram photos by National Geographic (2016) – This could be the perfect gift for your favorite photographer or explorer. Perhaps you could have it accompany an actual camera under the tree for your aspiring picture takers or a coupon for an exploration of a nearby, unknown territory during the holiday break? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Kids and Kids at Heart

For All Fans of Harry Potter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay Cover Image

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (2016) — This is terribly fun to read and really what is better than returning to the wonderfully magical world of Harry Potter? This time you visit in 1920 and hang out with a Hufflepuff hero. There is a reason JK Rowling once said that was her favorite Hogwarts house. Combine this screenplay with two tickets to see the movie, and you have a perfect last minute gift for almost anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For Those Who Like Memoirs and Biographies

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImagePrisoner B-3087 Cover Image

The Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir for young adults and in it she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving.  But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013) – An amazing book about the holocaust that my 13 year old just declared probably “the best book he’s read”.  Mr. Gratz takes the true story of Jack Gruener, who was moved through ten concentration camps including Auschwitz, and with slight poetic license creates a tale of survival amongst unspeakable horrors that must be remembered. ~ Lisa Christie

Just for Fun

The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle Cover ImageRaymie Nightingale Cover ImageJust My Luck Cover Image

The Trials of Apollo: Book One by Rick Riordan (2016) – Mr. Riordan’s treatment of mythology may be getting old for some, but not for me. Why? Well because his ability to capture teen angst and power remains spot on and perfect for narrating these tales. In his latest book, Apollo has fallen to earth as a teenage boy with flab and acne as punishment for his most recent sin against his father Zeus. He turns to his children at Camp Half Blood for help, and with his mortal enslaver manages to figure out what is going wrong on earth. The question is can he solve it? (Cliffhanger alert – Not in book one.) ENJOY! And thank you Augie Fortune for introducing me to this author all those years ago when you visited Vermont. ~ Lisa Christie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016) – Ms. Camillo returns to 1970s Florida and creates a superb tale of three young girls who discover each other and themselves over the course of a summer.  The plot centers around Raymie’s plan to bring her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, back — she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, get her picture in the paper and remind him he needs to come home. First though she must learn to twirl a baton and defeat the two other girls in her lessons. Delightful! ~ Lisa Christie 

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (2016) – Truly a superb book that illustrates what it is like to be a 4th grader, have an autistic older brother, a distracted teacher, and feel as if you were the cause of your father’s life-altering accident. Basically it shows what it is like to be loved and to love. ~ Lisa Christie 

Great for Reluctant Readers

Booked Cover ImageWho Was Harriet Tubman? Cover Image

Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016) – Another hit by Mr. Alexander. This time a soccer player experiences family hardships (divorce) and teen angst (soccer tryouts).  The poetry format is winning. And my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover finished this in 18 hours (with school interfering.) We also highly recommend The Crossover .~ Lisa Christie

Who is What Was Who Is series (assorted years) – We recommend this series every year, but they keep adding great books.  Truly perfect for reluctant readers, and they will learn a lot. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Books Based in Historical Facts and/or People

The Seventh Most Important Thing Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover ImageAnna and the Swallow Man Cover Image

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (2015) – Listened to with my ten year old and his friend on a long trip to Maine. We all loved this tale of a “trash man” who is actually making an amazing piece of art (actual artist James Hampton), the boy who hurts him and the penance he must pay.  There are lessons for all in this, but most importantly there is a good story of what happens when someone tales the time to get to know someone. ~ Lisa Christie

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) — When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words “I read this in two big gulps” I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent from London to the countryside for safety (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and here feisty fight for her place in the world. ~ Lisa Christie

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this one four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans.  Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – This slim YA novel looks at life as a refugee – this time in Poland during WWII.  Anna’s father never comes home from work on day and she is befriended by a mysterious stranger who remains nameless throughout the book. Somehow, the author makes walking in circles in Poland compelling and meaningful, especially in light of today’s headlines from Syria. A great choice for fans of The Book Thief~ Lisa Christie 

Picture Books – We are going with the experts at Marion Cross School as heard during BOOK BUZZ

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

Chalk by Bill Thomson (2010). Selected by Ava B – Magic chalk drawings come to life.

Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman (1961). Selected by Mateo, presented with help from Drew – What is up in that tree?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  May the final days of 2016 be filled with books and loved ones.

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It has been a very good year for cookbooks.

From London to New York to Los Angeles, we have entered a golden age of food writing that is feeding our emerging cravings for heaping bowls of whole grains, buttery avocados, leafy greens, artisanal breads and cheeses with a dollop of exotic, sustainable protein on the side (squid, Merguez sausage, and Korean Clambake!). Flavors of the Middle East and the Mediterranean – pomegranate seeds, kofta, Burrata, and preserved lemons, oh my! – permeate these offerings and promise to elevate our own homemade creations. But rest assured, they also all include familiar and favorite familiar foods like Brussels sprouts, creamy mashed potatoes, and quintessential roast chickens.

Not only will adding one or two of these luscious cookbooks to your shelf make for an adventurous and delicious 2017, but having these on your list will make gift giving to friends and family as easy as (pot) pie. Even if your loved ones don’t pull out their pans on a regular basis, each and every one of these titles make beautiful coffee table books and are dreamy to peruse, even if the reader is eating take out while reading one. Happy Reading and Happy Eating!

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Simple Cover ImageSimple by Diana Henry (2016) – Quite simply, this book is about how to turn the everyday into something special. Cumin-roast eggplants, chickpeas, walnuts, and dates ?? Why didn’t I think of that? Salmon tartare and avocado on rye? Now that’s one heck of an avocado toast! For most of us, who have the everyday in our cupboards, this book is the key to what will help make the ordinary extraordinary. This book, with a British, Ottolenghi-infused sensibility, is the one I have put at the top of my wish list and am most likely to gift others this year.

Food52 a New Way to Dinner: A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead Cover ImageFood52: A New Way to Dinner. A Playbook of Recipes and Strategies for the Week Ahead by Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. (2016). What sets this book apart is its approach, encouraging readers to plan out their food a week ahead and to get most of work done in advance, shopping lists included. The authors offer prep advice and also easy, seasonal, and truly sophisticated recipes. Take winter for example: Stubbs offers the reader a week of menus for the colder weather that play with Brussels sprouts, coconut bars and roast turbo. She and co-author Hesser take turns sharing their take on how to perfectly dish up dinner during the different months of the year. This book promises to make you feel like you’re eating at the chic bistro in NYC when, with a little bit of prep work, you’re actually just sitting at your own kitchen table on a weeknight. Thank you, Amanda and Merrill!

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs Cover ImageSmall Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs by Julia Turshen (2016) – This is a cozy cookbook. The cover photo gives this away, as it features an enticing bowl of chicken soup that makes you wish you had a spoon to dive right in. Turshen’s author photo shows her standing by her sunny kitchen window wearing a comfy pair of slippers. She had me at “Roasted Radishes with Kalamata Dressing” and her “Seven Things to Do with Leftover Roast Chicken.” Sophisticated but entirely without pretense, this is another book I am sure to give my dear ones this year.

Everything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking Cover ImageEverything I Want to Eat: Sqirl and the New California Cooking by Jessica Koslow (2016) – Jessica Koslow’s book has made it onto practically every “best of list” in 2016. Think of it as the healthy hipsters guide to cooking NOW. Opening it up is like taking a trip to her celebrated restaurant in LA, elevated avocado toast and creative grain bowls included. I am most enamored of her use of luscious, thick toasted slices of brioche and drizzles of homemade jam to invite the reader into her kitchen and make them wish they were being served one of her breakfast creations (they have a cult following). She’s got a strong savory palette as well. I will definitely be trying her recipe for beet-cured salmon whose jewel tones are stunning and the technique very doable. Perfect for that Brooklynite or west coast cook who is inspired by cutting edge cookery.

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