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Posts Tagged ‘holiday books’

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So, kids did it again. During another BOOK BUZZ last week, the student and staff presenters provided a perfect, eclectic list of great books for us to give the kids in our life this holiday season, and to read ourselves. This time, the presenters were all students and teachers from Marion Cross School in our hometown of Norwich, Vermont.

So, a HUGE THANK YOU to the Marion Cross School presenters (listed at the end of this list), the Marion Cross PTO, Stephanie McCaull for her excellent coaching skills and unwavering support, the Norwich Bookstore for generously donating 20% of sales from BOOK BUZZ to the school, and all who attended and provided these amazing presenters a great audience (around 150 people), while also reinforcing the importance of reading great books.

Without further ado, their selections and their 6 word reviews. Please have fun giving and getting the books on this list.

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BOOKS FOR YOUR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ BUT WHO WOULD LOVE A GREAT STORY

  • Sled Dog School by Terry Lynn Johnson (2017). Selected by Guin – Inspiring tale of perseverance.

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BEST FAMILY OR CLASSROOM READ ALOUD

  • The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill (1964). Selected by Phin – NYC pushcarts fight truck bullies.
  • Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (2000). Selected by Isla – Boy rescues abused dog, loves him.
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl (1988). Selected by Blythe – Girl escapes mean parents with magic.

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PERFECT BOOKS TO HELP YOU IGNORE THE FACT THAT YOU ARE WAITING FOR YOUR SISTER OR BROTHER TO FINISH HOCKEY PRACTICE

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FUN, NON-FICTION BOOKS FOR KIDS WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

  • A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park (2010). Selected by Izzy – A boy’s journey during fatal war.
  • How Things Work by T.J. Resler (2016). Selected by Natalie – Shows how machines like iPhones work.

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FICTION BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB TEACHING HISTORY

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GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE YOUR FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS

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PICTURE BOOKS TO READ WITH YOUR READING BUDDY (OR YOUNGER SISTER OR BROTHER)

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A BOOK THAT WILL MAKE YOU LAUGH AWAY YOUR TROUBLES

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SPORTS BOOKS THAT ARE ABOUT SO MUCH MORE

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SERIES YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT DOWN, OR WHAT TO READ WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF WIMPY KID BOOKS

 

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The Presenters

4th grade

  • Blythe
  • Isaiah
  • Jacobi
  • Mayuri
  • Isla
  • Phin

5th grade

  • Kaya
  • Jai
  • Zabava
  • Natalie
  • Guin
  • Maddy

6th grade

  • Felix
  • Kai
  • Jess
  • Izzy
  • Iver
  • Oliver

Adults

  • Mrs. French
  • Mr. Bill
  • Lisa Christie

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Last week in our hometown of Norwich, book lovers once again converged on our historic Norwich Inn to raise money for our treasured Norwich Public Library and get a jump start on our holiday shopping. Our superb presenters spoke about their favorite picks for gift giving, and once again sold a lot of books. We thank them for donating their expertise. And, thanks to the generosity of the amazing Norwich Bookstore, the event raised roughly $1,300 for the Norwich Public Library. And, we all get to enjoy their great list of books for us to give and to get.

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This post lists all the books discussed during the evening, each with its special six word review provided by the presenter. You’ll notice that the selections are divided into rather specific categories to make gift-giving easier, but not to deter anyone from trying any title. We hope you have fun browsing these selections. We also hope that you enjoy holiday shopping from the comfort of your computer/iPad/phone using the direct links to each selection, and that you are inspired to visit your favorite indie bookseller and purchase some of these in person.

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And now, our superb presenters’ picks for holiday gift giving, with their intriguing bios at the end.

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For people who like to cook up a culinary snowstorm

  • Six Seasons by Joshua McFadden (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Beautiful ways to eat more vegetables!
  • Smitten Kitchen Every Day by Deb Perelman (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – ‘Sizzling’ ‘Bacony’ ‘Carmelized’ ‘Crispy’ ‘Simple’ = Delicious.
  • How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman (2017). Selected by Lisa Cadow – Tasty Veggies. Two Thousand Recipes. Techniques!

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For people who enjoy non-fiction or reference books while sitting by the woodstove

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For people who enjoy living vicariously through other people’s memories

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For kids & for families to read together

  • The Wolf, the Duck & the Mouse by Mac Barnett & Jon Klassen (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – Guess who lives in wolf’s tummy!
  • The Storm Whale in Winter by Benji Davies (2017). Selected by Jeff Sharlet – The whale returns, the deep revisited.
  • 7 Ate 9 by Tara Lazar & Ross MacDonald. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – A good pun is never done!

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For middle grade & middle school readers, those beyond Tonka trucks and tea parties but not ready for teen topics

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For your favorite young adult who still likes to drink hot chocolate and spend snowy days reading

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Revelatory YA novel everyone should read.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – Mystery; mental health; important: you’ll cry.
  • Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. (2017). Selected by Lisa Christie – Elevator ride dilemma. Violence explained? Important.

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For anyone who just needs an engrossing novel to help them recover from the news

  • Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017). Selected by Lucinda Walker – Smart, funny, moving novel of persistence.
  • Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan (2017). Selected by Carin Pratt – Fearless WWII-era diver searches for father.
  • Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (2016). Selected by Lisa Christie – Short stories read like superb films.

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For enjoyment by your hosts or coworkers – or just about anyone!

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PRESENTERS’ BIOS

Lucinda Walker has been the Director of the Norwich Public Library since 2002 and is grateful for her colleagues and this remarkable community. Besides books, her favorite things include French roast coffee, skiing, Provincetown, storytelling podcasts, and Saturday Night Live. Her favorite time to read is at 3 am. Lucinda lives in Brownsville with her poet husband Peter and two amazing kids, Hartley & Lily.

Jeff Sharlet, a journalist and associate professor of creative writing at Dartmouth, is the nationally bestselling author or editor of six books of literary journalism, including The Family, described by Barbara Ehrenreich as “one of the most compelling and brilliantly researched exposes you’ll ever read.” He is an editor-at-large for Virginia Quarterly Review and a contributor to periodicals such as Harper’s, GQ, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in Norwich with his wife, son and daughter, where he is an avid patron of the Norwich Public Library and Norwich Bookstore.

Carin Pratt, a native of Massachusetts, Carin moved to the Upper Valley (specifically Strafford) six years ago after spending 30 years in DC working as a television producer, finishing as executive producer of Face the Nation. She’s never looked back. She reads a lot, and works part-time at the Norwich Bookstore in order to afford her addiction to books.

Lisa Christie is the co-founder of the Book Jam. In previous times, she was the founder/Executive Director of Everybody Wins! Vermont and USA, literacy programs that help children love books. She currently works as a part-time non-profit consultant, part-time Dartmouth graduate student, and all-the-time believer in the power of books. She lives in Norwich with her musician husband, two superb sons, and a very large dog. She often dreams of travel.

Lisa Cadow is the co-founder of the Book Jam. When not reading or experimenting in her kitchen, she works as a health coach for Dartmouth Health Connect, an innovative primary care practice in Hanover, NH. She fervently believes that health outcomes would improve if doctors could prescribe books to patients as well as medicine. Lisa lives in Norwich with her husband, three cats, and a fun border collie and loves it when her three adult children visit.

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Norwich is buzzing about BOOK BUZZ: Book selections by kids for kids, just in time for holiday giving

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The spirit of community is afoot in Norwich, Vermont. At the end of a snowy day in our hometown, people gathered to taste wine and raise money for the Haven, our local shelter; some attended a First Wednesday presentation, a project of the Norwich Public Library and Norwich Historical Society and Vermont Humanities Council; they attended our Select Board meeting and heard about all the area nonprofits who need support; they joined our school board meeting; and of course they shopped at Dan & Whit’s, our unique General Store and the Norwich Bookstore, our beloved indie bookseller. Yes, one of the many reasons The Book Jam loves our hometown is that fact that on certain nights your options for community engagement are abundant. (Continuing the Norwich community theme, just next door in White River Junction, at Open Door, people were listening to Norwich beloved doctor, Michael Lyons and storyteller extraordinaire Cindy Pierce discuss how to talk about sex with your kids.)

However, what really has the town buzzing is the fact that on this same night, ten elementary school students (all in 4th 5th or 6th grade), one teacher, and one principal stood up in front of an audience of 100 and presented two of their favorite books. Why? Quite simply because they wanted to help you find the perfect books for the kids in our town, and to raise money for our school. Yes, BOOK BUZZ came to Norwich last week, and wow did the student presenters give us a great list of books to share. These books are kid tested and kid approved and will make great holiday gifts, and/or provide a superb list for your kids to tackle over the upcoming holiday break.
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THANK YOU to all the presenters:

Thank you to the BOOK BUZZ sponsors – The Marion Cross School PTO (especially Stephanie McCaull and Susan Simmers), boloco and the Norwich Bookstore.

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And now, the presenters’ list.

Shiloh Cover ImageThe Orphan Army Cover ImageFriday Barnes, Girl Detective Cover Image

BOOKS FOR YOUR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ BUT WHO WOULD LOVE A GREAT STORY

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story Cover ImageThe Tao of Pooh Cover ImageThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Cover Image

SUPERB BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO YOUR FAVORITE ADULT (TEACHER, AUNT, PARENT) AS REQUIRED READING

Sheep in a Jeep Cover ImageFish in a Tree Cover ImageSmells Like Dog Cover Image

BEST FAMILY READ-ALOUDS

  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw; Margot Apple, ill. (1986).Selected by Jasper – My family likes to read it.
  • Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt (2015). Selected by Ava G – Girl with dyslexia finds new friends.
  • Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors (2010). Selected by Ava B – Treasure-hunting adventures with Homer and Dog.

Because of Winn-Dixie Cover ImageThe Wild Robot Cover ImageAl Capone Does My Shirts Cover Image

PERFECT BOOKS TO HELP YOU IGNORE THE FACT YOU ARE WAITING FOR YOUR SISTER TO FINISH HOCKEY PRACTICE

  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000). Selected by Hazel – Lost dog found by a special girl.
  • The Wild Robot By Peter Brown (2016) – Selected by Rowan – Robot finds her way in nature.
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (2004) – Selected by Anna A – Interesting story, boy lives on Alcatraz.

When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone Cover ImageWho Was Roberto Clemente? Cover ImageWhat Was the Alamo? Cover ImageWho Is J.K. Rowling? Cover Image

FUN NON-FICTION BOOKS FOR KIDS WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

  • When the Wolves Returned by D.H. Patent (2008) – Selected by Mrs. French – Wolves return balance to Yellowstone Park.
  • Who Was? What Was? Who Is? (series) (assorted authors and dates) – Selected by Lisa – Great people, places, and things explained.

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FICTION BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB OF TEACHING HISTORY

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) – Selected by Mateo –  Beaten down, but still got up.
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2015) – Selected by Rowan – Girl struggles to find her dad.

Treasure Hunters Cover ImageThe Seventh Most Important Thing Cover Image

GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE YOUR FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS\

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made Cover Image

THE BEST BOOK TO GIVE YOUR YOUNGER BROTHER OR SISTER BECAUSE IT WAS YOUR FAVORITE IN 2ND GRADE

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

PICTURE BOOKS TO READ WITH YOUR READING BUDDY (OR YOUNGER SISTER OR BROTHER)

  • 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?

The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics Cover ImageSoar Cover Image

SPORTS BOOKS THAT ARE ABOUT SO MUCH MORE

Warriors #1: Into the Wild Cover ImageEncyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt Cover ImageThe Terrible Two Cover ImageThe Terrible Two Get Worse Cover Image

SERIES YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT DOWN, OR WHAT TO READ WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF WIMPY KID BOOKS

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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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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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This week we feature beloved children’s author and illustrator Tomie dePaolaMr. dePaola has been published for over 40 years and has written and/or illustrated nearly 250 books, including Strega Nona, 26 Fairmount Avenue, and Christmas Remembered. Over 15 million copies of his books have sold worldwide. Mr. dePaola and his work have been recognized with many honors including the Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. The University of Connecticut, Georgetown University and Pratt Institute, among others, have granted him honorary doctoral degrees. In 1999, he was selected for the New Hampshire’s Governor’s Arts Award of Living Treasure. He lives in New London, New Hampshire, with his Airedale terrier, Brontë, and works in a renovated 200-year-old barn.FC9781481420624.JPG

Mr. dePaola will return to the Norwich Bookstore Thanksgiving Weekend from 10:30 am until noon on Saturday, November 26th for his annual book signing. The bookstore will have a surplus of dePaola’s books on hand — both his new The Moon’s Almost Here and his classics. Come and meet Mr. dePaola and get books signed for your special young readers (or for yourself). And now, Mr. dePaola’s answers our three questions.

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths Cover ImageThe Nutcracker Cover ImageThe Year at Maple Hill Farm Cover ImageLittle Women Cover Image

Johnny Tremain Cover ImageThe Brothers Karamazov Cover ImageHigglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life Cover Image

1.What three books have helped shape you into the artist and writer you are today, and why?

As an artist, and as a child: The d’Aulaires, Sheilah Beckett.

In Art School: Martin and Alice Provensen.

As a writer, and as a child: Little Women. In High School: Johnny Tremain. In Art School: The Brothers Karamazov, Higglety Pigglety Pop, and many more.

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2.What author or illustrator (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Author: Gertrude Stein, because she really liked artists.
Artist (Illustrator): Jon Klassen

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World Cover ImageMister Monkey Cover ImageRainer Maria Rilke's the Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
Rilke’s Book of Hours

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The Book Jam’s 2014 Holiday Gift-Giving Guide

Well, it is that time of year again. Time to think of gifts for the people in your life. Time to cook amazing meals to share with family and friends. And, we truly hope, time to curl up with a few good books yourself. (OK maybe that last part only happens after the relatives have left.)

To help you find the perfect gift for everyone on your list, we have assembled some of our favorites from our 2014 reading. Not all were published this year, which means many are available in a less expensive paperback form. And, once again to help you envision the perfect recipient for each book, we have assembled our selections in somewhat artificial categories (e.g., fiction for men who have enough tech, but not enough good fiction). Please use them as a guide, not as strict rules about who can and should read any of these picks.

For your convenience, each of our picks is linked to the Norwich Bookstore’s web site (or Waterstones’ site for a few not yet available in the USA). Thus, you do not have to leave your computer to check these items off your list (Happy Cyber Monday). Finally, we truly hope our selections help take a bit of stress out of the shopping aspect of this whirlwind season. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

COOKBOOKS: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO COOK UP A CULINARY SNOW STORM

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How to Cook Everything Fast by Mark Bittman (2014) – The theme for our lives this year in the kitchen keep is simple, keep it fast. This cookbook fits the bill. Most of the recipes take half an hour to prepare – nothing more than a cool forty-five minutes. This food Bittman showcases reads like a “best of” menu from your favorite pub. And ,it’s just what you want to eat after a long day at working or shuttling kids. It’s comfort food with a modern twist. There’s the Kale Caesar with Roasted Asparagus, 30 Minute Chicken Tagine, the Chicken, Bacon, Avocado, and Tomato Wrap, Provencal Tomato Soup with Fennel, even quick Skillet Fruit Crisp.  Treat yourself or a friend to this new culinary treasury.

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Make It Ahead by Ina Garten (2014) – Ina Garten’s recipes are always sure to please, and this book is no exception. Leafing through its pages, looking at the gorgeous photos makes the reader feel like they are visiting their favorite caterer’s take away shop. These are recipes that you can make for your next dinner gathering or deliver to a friend who needs a meal. We love the updated Roast Chicken with Bread and Arugula Salad (a short cut on the Zuni Cookbook classic), Carrot and Cauliflower Puree, and Winter Slaw (with kale, Brussels sprouts, and radicchio). Each recipe gives tips to the home cook for steps to perform ahead of time and assemble at the last minute. No kitchen library is complete without a few of Ina Garten’s classic cookbooks.

Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi (2014) – Well, he has done it again. Mr. Ottolenghi has produced a book that makes you want to start cooking now, preferably beginning with his first recipe and proceeding all the way through to the end. And of course, you will be tasting delicious dish after dish along the way.  (And honestly, we like that this is less of a travel log than Mr. Ottolenghi’s  Jerusalem, and instead is a “fun to look at / fun to try” collection of recipes.) Note this is a perfect reference book for those of you feeding vegetarians over the holidays.

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Prune by Gabrielle Hamilton (2014) – You’ve got to admire not only Gabrielle Hamilton’s uber food-sense and culinary artistry but also her razor-sharp edginess. Prune, the cookbook, is the product of her years as a restauranteur in Brooklyn and her bistro with the same name. Her literary voice shines through in each recipe (if you haven’t already, do read Hamilton’s brilliant food memoir Blood Bones and Butter, 2011). She writes with the intent to teach the home cook, but her recipes emerge from the perspective of a restaurant chef (quantities are in orders, not servings, descriptions of how much to order for a weekend crowd are included, faux splatters and finger prints on the pages make the reader feel as though they are looking are her private notes). But Hamilton is definitely not going for the Miss Congeniality award. She lectures, scolds, treats the reader like a “stagiere” in her restaurant. We are inclined to run – not walk –  to forage for the ingredients for her Cod in Saffron Broth with Leeks, Potatoes and Savoy Cabbage.

NON-FICTION/REFERENCE/POETRY: FOR PEOPLE WHO LIKE TO THINK & CHAT WHILE SITTING BY THE WOOD STOVE



How to be an explorer of the world by Keri Smith (2008) – We somehow missed this when it was first published, but are loving it now. In this journal, readers are encouraged to explore and document the world around them. Readers are told to take notes, to collect things they find on their travels, to notice patterns and to focus on one thing at a time in a series of illustrated prompts.  This would make a great “What do we do now? We’re bored” solution generator.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (2013) – We know we have reviewed this before. But now, this tale of how nine men from the University of Washington showed the world what true grit really means during the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, is available in paperback and would make a great gift for anyone presenting gift difficulties this holiday season.

MEMOIRS, MOSTLY ABOUT TRAVEL: TALES FOR PEOPLE WHO CAN’T GET AWAY TO FAR-OFF LANDS AS OFTEN AS THEY WISH

A Moveable Feast by Ernest Heminway (1964) – We are so glad we finally got around to reading (Lisa Christie) or re-reading (Lisa Cadow) this memoir.  His Paris is a place we would have loved to have visited, and the characters involved are all the more amazing as they are historical figures you know from many other contexts (e.g., Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald).

Brazilian Adventure: A Quest into the Heart of the Amazon

Brazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming (1933) – This travel log is superb,and honestly took us by surprise with how much we loved it. The story begins when the narrator, a London literary editor, signs on for an expedition to find Colonel PH Fawcett, who has gone missing in the Amazon.  With self-depreciating humor, Mr. Fleming proceeds to explore how an expedition comes together, embarks and continues in the face of hardships of 3,000 miles of wilderness. Have fun with this one. We honestly can not recommend it highly enough.

ADULT FICTION: FOR A WOMAN WHO ONLY HAS TIME FOR THE BEST FICTION

Unknown-1Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (2014)  – Buckle up your backpacks and get ready for playground politics and the modern parenting. The lives of three mothers converge on the first day of kindergarten at an upscale elementary school in coastal Australia. Observant, humorous, a tad bit dark, this “un-putdownable” book (by the author of What Alice Forgot 2012) explores the lies that we all tell ourselves and each other. Part mystery (someone ends up dead, but who?), part social commentary, part page-turner, this book is sure not to disappoint.

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013 in Australia/2014 in USA) – We discovered this haunting tale of Iceland in Rhode Island at Island Books, and we are very glad we did. Ms. Kent does a superb job of taking the true stories of 1) Agnes, a woman convicted of murdering two men, of 2) the family who must house Agnes while she awaits her execution, of 3) Toti, the Reverend who must save Agnes’s soul, and combining them into a fabulous first novel.

While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell (2014) – It is almost as if Gail Carson Levine created one of her fairy tale retellings for grown-ups.  In this novel, Ms. Blackwell tells the “true story” of Sleeping Beauty, with explanations of why she was lying in the tower when the Prince came, who exactly were Millicent and Flora, and why the king and queen feared spinning wheels.  It is truly a page-turning tale of family, secrets, and promises. Read it and enjoy losing yourself in an unique telling of a well-known tale.

ADULT FICTION: FOR A MAN WHO HAS ENOUGH TECH, BUT NOT ENOUGH GOOD FICTION

The Purity of Vengeance by Jussi Adler-Olsen (Dec 2013)- The latest Department Q novel shows how the misfit threesome stuck in the bowels of the Copenhagen Police Department have melded into an effective cold-case solving unit, and a worthy family.

Midnight in Europe by Alan Furst (2014) – This book shows how a thriller becomes a powerful novel; it provides a superb author, a historical plot and intense situations with characters you care about. We especially liked the Spanish Civil War angle in this well-plotted tale.  Enjoy this one and then pick up one of Mr. Furst’s many other superb historical thrillers.

ADULT FICTION: FOR ANYONE LOOKING FOR A GREAT BOOK

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra (2013) – A truly, truly, truly amazing debut novel about the pain and suffering inflicted during the Chechen conflict(s) and the power of love. From the opening pages describing the abduction and disappearance of a man from his home (which is promptly burned to the ground). Mr. Marra connects the lives of eight unforgettable characters (e.g., the daughter of the abducted man, the father of a despised informant, a doctor trying to hold together a hospital with only three staff members) in unexpected ways. With incredible writing and gifted storytelling, this is a superb read. We can not praise it enough.

Euphoria by Lily King (2014) – Truly terrific. A well-crafted tale of three anthropologists and their time observing and living with the various peoples in the Territory of New Guinea. Set between the two World Wars, Ms. King explores a complex love triangle among these gifted and often confused young scientists. This novel is loosely based upon real life events from the life of Margaret Mead — all from her trip to the Sepik River in New Guinea, during which Mead and her husband, Reo Fortune, briefly collaborated with the man who would become her third husband, the English anthropologist Gregory Bateson. It has us searching for nonfiction treatments of her life. The New York Times agrees that this book is a “must read”.

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014) – We love her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, so we leapt at the chance to read some short stories by Ms. Mantel.  The collection is diverse and always interesting, from a piece about when you know a marriage has ended to the title story about an assassin, she keeps you guessing about what is really going on with each character.  Pick this up and enjoy them one at a time or in one fell swoop.

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All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014) – This is a fabulous World War II novel (yes, dear readers, there is room for another title in this genre) that tells the stories of Marie-Laure, a young blind girl from Paris, and Werner, a brilliant German boy with a gift for math, radios and engineering. Their seemingly disparate lives converge in the seaside fortress town on St. Malo, France in 1944. The author does and excellent job of slowly building the suspense and pace throughout the novel turning it into a real page-turner by the time the bombs start dropping in Brittany. Many people are describing this as “the book of the year”, and we just might have to agree.

BOOKS FOR YOUNGSTERS (AGES 8-12): THOSE BEYOND TONKA TRUCKS & TEA PARTIES BUT NOT YET READY FOR TEEN TOPICS

The Misadventures of Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014) – Two dads adopt four sons, and chaos and so, so, so much love ensue.  Boys we know LOVED this book.  And, we must say it was completely entertaining listening for all ages on a car trip to Maine.

Another Day as Emily by Eileen Spinelli (2014) – What do you do when your LITTLE brother gets all the credit for saving your neighbor’s life when you helped too? Or when your best-friend and the boy down the block don’t quite get you? Or when you don’t get a part in the community theater’s play? Why, you become Emily Dickenson of course; but then you discover being a recluse is not as easy as it seems.

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald (2014) – Publishers Weekly says “Fans of From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler will find this another delightful lesson in art history.” That fan base includes us; so, we were thrilled to read this. The plot follows Theodora Tenpenny around Manhattan as she tries to solve the mystery of a painting she uncovers (literally) once her grandfather dies. Characters include her eccentric mother who has spent at least fifteen years doing nothing else but working on her mathematical dissertation and consuming very expensive tea (and certainly not caring for Theodora). The book shows how two amazing, but lonely girls can make great friends, and it introduces viewers both to the world of beautiful and important art, and to the importance of asking for help when you need it.  Not bad for an author’s first children’s book!

The Expeditioners and the Secret of King Triton’s Lair by SS Taylor with superb illustrations by Katherine Roy (2014) – The Wests are back and embroiled in an amazing adventure involving underwater secrets, pirates and lessons about friendship love and family. If you have not yet read the first book, start with The Expeditioners and the Treasure of Drowned Man’s Canyon.

The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable (2012)  – Great atmosphere surrounds this story of an orphan girl and her two friends as they travel from a London boarding school to Russia and are thrown from a train into the snow, rescued by a princess (or is she?) and brought to a decaying castle surrounded by wolves, legends and tragedy. You sort of see the end coming, but it doesn’t matter as you are so fully immersed in Russia you don’t care.

YOUNG ADULT FICTION — FOR TEENS /TWEENS AND THE ADULTS WHO LOVE THEM

Like No Other by Una LaMarche (2014) – West Side Story with an African American as the male lead and a Hasidic girl as the female lead.  Set in modern day Brooklyn, this tale explores the feelings one’s first true love brings, and what it means to make your own way into the world – even if it requires navigating wanting to respect one’s parents while still rebelling from their rules.

How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon (2014) – A powerful look at “what goes down” when a 16-year-old black boy in a hoodie is shot by a white man. Was it defense against a gang incident? Was it a man stopping a robbery gone wrong? Was it being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Was it none of these, or a combination of these? And, just when you think you have all the pieces and perspectives to know what happened, a new piece of information inserted into one of the multiple voices used to tell this story sends you another direction. A seriously impressive book – cleverly staged, with superb and unique voices throughout, and unfortunately a plot from today’s headlines. This book makes you think about how perspective influences what you see, how stories are told, how choices have implications, and – well, to be honest – the pull and power of gangs.  Read it and discuss with your favorite teen.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng (2014) – An excellent debut novel about the power of all the things left unsaid in a family. How secrets hurt. How children try so hard to please their parents. How parents’ expectations, even if well-meaning, can crush. How you must live your life, not the life others expect you to live.  All of this is intwined in the story of Lydia and her family (three mixed race children and their Chinese father and Caucasian mother living in 1970s Ohio) after she is found dead in a lake. Read it. (Note many people review this as an adult book, but we see it as a YA coming of age novel.)

The Manifesto on How to be Interesting

The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting by Holly Bourne (2014) – WOW, Ms. Bourne grabs you from the opening premise and keeps you turning pages.  Yes, you know that disaster awaits, but you are so hoping that somehow it all ends well.  Please read this with your favorite High Schooler.  We think it might open up some great conversations about mean girls, horrid boys, cutting, suicide, finding great friendships, and the meaning of life.

PICTURE BOOKS: FOR FAMILIES TO READ TOGETHER DURING SNOW STORMS

Once Upon An Alphabet (2014) and The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) by Oliver Jeffers – Author of our favorite picture book from last year – The Day the Crayons Quit – has penned a series of short stories based upon each letter of the alphabet. His droll nature gets kids thinking about letters and life. (Disclaimer: this book could be considered a bit dark for some children in the way Roald Dahl was a bit dark, so please pre-read if you are concerned about gifting this to kids you know.) Please note that we recommend this as a read-aloud with your young kids, as the ratio of prose to pictures is rather high, and as stated above, a bit sophisticated. And, if you missed The Day the Crayons Quit last year, we highly recommend gifting it to someone special this year. Crayons is a much more traditional picture book for children that is funny, funny, funny!

New York in Four Seasons by Michael Storrings (2014) – A picture book for adults and kids that is actually a love story for New York.  You might recognize Mr. Storrings’ drawings from Christmas ornaments.  In this book, his pictures powerfully illustrate a city he LOVES, and his prose tells you why you should love it too. Great illustrations include Central Park, Coney Island, and some more seasonal items – Christmas windows, 4th of July fireworks and the Greenwich Village Halloween parade. We envision this as the perfect gift from New Yorkers, former New Yorkers or New Yorker wanna-bes to give to anyone they want to love NYC too.

Atlas of Adventures: A Collection of Natural Wonders, Exciting Experiences and Fun Festivities from the Four Corners of the Globe

Atlas of Adventures: A collection of natural wonders, exciting experiences and fun fun festivities from the four corners of the globe by Lucy Letherland (2014) – We would describe this as similar to MAPS, which we reviewed last year and still recommend to anyone who has missed it. Ms. Letherland’s book encourages the reader through fun illustrations and some well selected prose, to travel the world to have adventures specific to unique locations. A GREAT holiday gift, but one that is not available in the USA until 2015 (so put it on your lists for 2015 US fans), but available in Europe now for Book Jam readers overseas.

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Unknown-2There’s STILL time to find a great gift for those hard-to-gift-people on your list.  Remember – size does not matter, substance does, and books are the perfect fit for anyone. You don’t even have to ship them because you can simply gift them to an iPad.

Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanza, and a Joyous New Year to all. We truly look forward to sharing more recommendations in 2014. We wish you a great year’s end full of good books and fun with friends and family. Thank you for being a part of The Book Jam in 2013 – 2014 promises to be a year full of fabulous paragraphs and plots.

But before you finish up your wrapping, wait! – here are just a few more ideas before Santa heads out with his sleigh…

For non fiction readers

This is the Story of a Happy Marriage by Ann Patchett (November 2013) – We love essay collections, and this one by Ms. Patchett is truly superb. And it’s not simply about happy marriages, but about life’s trials and the wisdom that comes with age. Patchett’s writing is clear, funny, insightful and causes you to think a bit differently for a time about owning a bookstore, divorce, friendship, censorship, and life in South Carolina. We truly think this would make a thoughtful gift for mature readers on your list. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For fiction lovers

Sycamore Row by John Grisham (October 2013) – When I saw this novel on a “best books of 2013” list – a list that also included Donna Tartt and other authors whose novels tend not to become blockbuster movies, I decided to give it a read.  I am so very glad that I did!  Mr. Grisham is a master at plot and suspense.  And, since I am a fan of the movie A Time To Kill, spending time with Jake Brigance years after the trial from that first book, felt like a mini-reunion.  My recommendation?  Get this for anyone you know loves to read, but for whom you don’t know what types of books they like.  But, please use this next bit of advice, and before you gift Sycamore Row to someone else, read it yourself and enjoy the treasured gift of time with a page-turning story.  ~ Lisa Christie

For young adults or sports fans or adults who like young adult novels and/or sports books

 Foul Trouble by John Feinstein (November 2013) – This is another great young adult book from Mr. Feinstein.  This young adult outing is not one from his mystery series, but is about the corruption in college basketball.  He definitely has an ax to grind with the NCAA and some colleges, but with this book, he does so in a good story.  Reading it with your favorite sports fan or young adult could be a great way to engage in a conversation about abuse, trust and doing the right thing. ~ Lisa Christie

Poetry, or a great gift for anyone who needs a chuckle

God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Marla Frazee (2013) – This collection is going to be a go-to gift for a while, especially for those people whose preferred reading genres are unknown.  Hilarious illustrations accompany amusing poems about God and what she/he does every day (e.g. take a desk job, make dinner, ponder advice from Buddha). ~ Lisa Christie and Lisa Cadow

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