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Staff Picks: Books

Year-End Review

As 2018 winds down, its a customary tradition for staff to compile a list of those books, movies and albums that have inspired us, made us laugh, made us cry, stoked our imagination, and provoked us to think deeply about the relationship between fact and fiction, reality and fantasy and art and life. Here are a few of my favorites.

 

Winter, Karl Ove Knausgaard
Becoming, Michelle Obama
WKW: the Cinema of Wong Kar Wai, John Powers
Time Pieces: A Dublin Memoir, John Banville
Meaty, Samantha Irby
My Year of Rest and Relaxation, Ottessa Moshfegh
These Truths: A History of the United States, Jill Lepore
The Largesse of the Sea Maidens, Denis Johnson

 


The Lake Michigan Cottage Cookbook

I really don't know what draws me to cookbooks. I don't cook, and I don't think I would like a lot of the entrees advocated therein. But, here's one that attracted my attention, probably because it has a regional focus -- and it's our region. Chicago-based food writer Amelia Levin has assembled a collection of recipes from the four states around Lake Michigan -- Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. These recipes are either inventions of local cooks and/or contain ingredients native to these four states. An example from the Michigan recipes is 'Enchiladas de Berrien Springs,' a dish served at Leaning Shed Farm in that community. Some sound really good, like 'Michigan Peach Crisp' and 'Strawberry-Rhubarb Hand Pies.' From Salt of the Earth, a restaurant in Fennville, comes 'Cranberry-Nut Bread.' Good photographs of food, cooks, and restaurants give the reader a great culinary tour of our part of the Midwest.


Stirring the Pot with Benjamin Franklin

Here's a nice cookbook with a good dose of history included, or it might be called a history book with recipes. Benjamin Franklin was famous for his interest and expertise in many fields. I didn't know that one of them happened to be cooking. In this book from the Smithsonian, the author describes Franklin's interest in food and the place it had in his life. She goes into lots of detail, such as what the kitchens he designed were like, how much he valued American corn and other local foods, and how he championed healthy eating habits. There are 62 recipes here. Some of them I would never even try to prepare (or eat), like ox-cheek stew, but there are others that don't sound too bad, like lemon ice cream or apple marmalade. All recipes are updated for use with modern appliances and utensils. This hybrid volume represents an excellent effort by Rae Katherine Eighmey, author, food historian, and cook.


How to Eat a Lobster : And Other Edible Enigmas Explained

I think this must be one of the smallest books the library owns (4-3/4" x 6"), but there is certainly a lot in it. As implied by the title, it is a book of procedure. How many would know that it takes six tools (skewer, towel or dishcloth, mallet, kitchen knife, butter knife, and paring knife) to open a coconut? Step-by-step instructions are given for this task. Most of the book details how to eat various commodities, such as a papaya, pigs' feet, asparagus, and artichoke. There are pages on how to eat something messy or spicy and even how to recover from a tongue burn. Mealtime etiquette is covered, along with hints such as how to stop yourself from choking. The dedication in the front of this book is priceless: 'TO MY MOM: Thanks for supporting me through the years. I'll never forget the time you were worried I'd mess up cooking dinner for the first time, but then you proceeded to set the taco shells on fire yourself. I love you.'


A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

Despite the title, A Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches isn't actually all that upsetting. What it is, however, is an insanely great cookbook about- yes- sandwiches from Tyler Kord, owner and head chef at No. 7 Sub in New York. Hilariously written with lots of attitude and great stories surrounding each (delicious) sandwich, along with mouthwatering photography by none other than William Wegman (famous for taking photos of his pet Weimaraner dogs wearing costumes), this is well worth a read if you love sandwiches, or funny writing, or both.


Smoothies Forever

Over the past several years, I've attempted to reduce my sugar and ice cream intake (not an easy endeavor) by experimenting with a variety of smoothies solutions. Smoothies can be a great way to add a tasteful source of protein to your diet as well. Be they green and full of super foods like spinach, kale, mango and pineapple or something a bit more centered around summer berries, our collection has a wealth of recipes that will aid in your finding of the perfect combination.