When it comes to buying books, I can’t help myself. There’s nothing better then cuddling up with one of my dogs (that’s Woody above) in our comfy, dining nook with a great book. At first I couldn’t decide WHICH books to share for last minute holiday gifts, so I went with recent favorites. These are books I would’ve loved receiving as gifts, if I had the patience to NOT buy them for myself first.
For The Food-Obsessed Traveler: Rice Noodle Fish by Matt Goulding
I haven’t been to Tokyo in years (except for quick stopovers to Okinawa) but after reading “Rice Noodle Fish: Deep Travels Through Japan’s Food Culture”, I’m saving up for a full kuidaore (aka “eat until you drop”) food extravaganza!
“Rice Noodle Fish” is not just another travel guide. It’s a beautiful look into the heart and soul of food culture in Japan. The “Ramen Matrix” section alone (starting on page 174) is a fantastic bit of culinary education. Check out a short video clip about the book here.
For The Whisky Lover: “The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide To Becoming A Whiskey Know-It-All” by Richard Betts
I’m half Scottish (Clan Maxwell), my dad lives in Scotland and I also happen to love Scotch. Over the years, I’ve done several whisky tours in Edinburgh, but I didn’t KNOW how little I knew about it until I read Richard Bett’s genius whisky guide. The scratch & sniff sections are fun and fascinating but what I love most is the simplicity of the book. Betts helps make sense of whisky by focusing on three categories: grain, wood and place. Oh, and he also notes that “Essentially, whiskey is just distilled beer”… MIND BLOWN.
My favorite Scotch? Auchentoshan’s Three Wood.
Listen to Evan Kleiman’s Good Food interview with Richard Betts here.
Buy The Essential Scratch & Sniff Guide To Becoming A Whiskey Know-It-All
Richard Betts website
Richard Betts on twitter @YoBetts
For The Writer: “The Art Of Memoir” by Mary Karr
I’ve been trying to write my family story for YEARS. The problem is, that I get overwhelmed with the drama and not-so-happy childhood memories. I’d spend months in my office, writing, WEEPING, and then beating myself up for not continuing.
When I started reading Mary Karr’s book a few weeks ago, I was in tears again. But these were tears of joy, of understanding, of shaking my head and mouthing “yes, that’s it”. In the introduction, Karr writes, “In some ways, writing memoir is knocking yourself out with your own fist.”
The publisher writes: “As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.”
“The Art Of Memoir” will make me a better writer, I’m sure of it. Listen to her talk about it on KCRW’s Bookworm here. A great gift for any aspiring writers out there for sure.
For Fans Of Gourmet Magazine: “My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life” by Ruth Reichl
Did I mention I’m a huge fan of Ruth Reichl? The photo below is from my office and she inspires me every day.
Like most food lovers I know, I was an avid reader of Gourmet Magazine for years. My husband Peter and I even attended the Gourmet Institute in New York back in 2005. I miss Gourmet, and I still can’t part with the final 2009 magazine issues (also in photo below).
Ruth’s latest book moved me so much, that I read it multiple times. I first downloaded My Kitchen Year on my iPad (I love the digital highlighting feature), and then purchased the hardcover (where I went in and highlighted my favorite parts old school). Still wanting more, I downloaded the Audible version and experienced it all over again. That’s right, I purchased it THREE times. Did I tell you I’m a fan? If you love My Kitchen Year as much as I do, I highly recommend listening to Ruth read it. It was emotional, thoughtful and so very inspiring too.
Alice Water writes: “Ruth is one of our greatest storytellers today, which you will feel from the moment you open this book and begin to read: No one writes as warmly and engagingly about the all-important intersection of food, life, love, and loss. This book is a lyrical and deeply intimate journey told through recipes, as only Ruth can do.”
Here’s a link to a terrific Eater article on My Kitchen Year.
Ruth’s spicy Pollo alla Diavola is currently my favorite chicken recipe. You’ll find it on page 59 (in the hard cover).
For The Home Cook: 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan
Seriously, this is one of those books that will be USED often. It is NOT just a pretty, coffee table cookbook. I love the pictorial pantry pages that include ingredients for basic (level 1 cooks), intermediate (level 2) and champion (level 3 cooks). Great drinking recipes too, like Korean “corn cheese”!
For Dog Lovers: “Beloved Dog” by Maira Kalman
This book made me tear up. It really did. Just a few pages in and author Maira Kalman expressed exactly how I feel about my beloved dogs. The cover even resembles my terrier mix, Woody.
The Brain Pickings website posted excerpts from this truly delightful book. Check them out here.
Happy Reading and HAPPY HOLIDAYS! Jo
Follow me on twitter @MyLastBite and also: