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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Gift Guide 4: Books!

You know it's inevitable: it's down to the wire and you find yourself standing in Borders, looking around desperately for books or DVDs. Well, I'm taking a stand against DVDs this year and supporting the WGA in their strike, so I'm not buying or asking for any DVDs this year. This, of course, makes things more difficult for me when it comes to "oh god, oh god, what do I do for so-and-so" presents. (And I'm sure made things more difficult for my family, since I usually get a healthy little stack of DVDs from my brother. Sorry, dude!)

Thus it all comes down to books this year. Fiction tends to be really hard to pick out for gifts, or at least for me, and literary non-fiction is pretty fascinating to me currently. I've written a guide to short fiction before, which I may repost here at some point if there's a desire for it, but here's some of the things I've read and loved, some of the things I'd like to read, and some delicious recipe books.

I will say this: I'm leaving the prices off because everywhere's different -- you can pick up books anywhere from Amazon to Borders to Powells (if you're lucky!) or the used bookstore of your preference. Some of these are new hardbacks, so keep that in mind.

- Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi. Yeah, I'm starting you off with a graphic novel because I'm a bit of a comics nerd. But this is one of those graphic novels that you can give to your non-comic-reading friends, as it's a fascinating story in itself. Originally written in French, it's the autobiography (although perhaps with some embellishment; who knows?) of the author's childhood growing up in Iran, then her growing into adulthood in Europe. It's very well-done, and I learned a lot from reading it. It's coming out as an animated film this winter (Christmas for major markets, early 2008 for the rest of us), and I'm super-excited about it all around.

- Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper by Diablo Cody. I don't know if I should be uber-jealous of Diablo Cody or make her my newest girl crush. She got the book deal for Candy Girl on the power of her blog about being a stripper (the original is down, but she now blogs at Blogspot), then got a screenwriting deal, which produced the new film Juno, which I totally want to see a lot, and now is a columnist for Entertainment Weekly. Basically, she is pretty much everything I want to be. Except for maybe the stripper part. Anyway, when I bought the book, I didn't know any of this. I brought this on my trip to Japan and lent it to my traveling buddy on the flight back... and kept peering over her shoulder. I was so intrigued by these over-the-shoulder glimpses that I devoured it as soon as she was done. It is an awesome book, and I am sorry, Kati, that I forgot to stick my copy in your package.

- This is Not Chick Lit by Elizabeth Merrick (editor). Don't get me wrong: I like chick lit! At least, well-written chick lit. I have recently come around to it after years of creative writing classes where everyone's writing about divorce, drugs, or death (or sometimes all three). So I do enjoy the happy release of chick lit. But that's not all that women write, and that's not all that women read. This is Not Chick Lit is a powerful collection of short stories that happen to be primarily written by and about women. If you or the person you are buying for lean more towards the short fiction side (and if you do, let me know!), this is definitely a good collection to pick up.

- Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life by Steve Martin. I am considering getting this for my dad, as he is very hard to pick books out for, as he's not really a recreational reader -- if he wants a book, he will let me know specifically what book, and he will only read the books he wants to read. But Steve Martin is well known for his writing as well as his comedy, and a memoir of his early stand-up career sounds really promising. It got a good review from Entertainment Weekly a while back, and it sounds like it would be something my dad (and my mom and I) would really enjoy reading. Edited 12/20: I did purchase this last night.

- The Anatomist: A True Story of Gray's Anatomy by Bill Hayes. I just read an intriguing article on the author of this book in the San Francisco Chronicle yesterday, with a short selection from the text. And I am so, so interested in this book, just from reading that excerpt. It's the story of the medical reference book Gray's Anatomy and the men who put it together, Henry Gray and Henry Vandyke Carter (the illustrator). In addition, it's also the story of Bill Hayes learning about anatomy itself through classes at the University of California San Francisco medical school. I really want to read this book, just based on this article and excerpt alone. And I think this would also be a good fit for my dad or my mom, just based on their shared interest in health and science. Edited 12/20: I went to the bookstore last night and asked the information desk about it when I couldn't see it on the shelf. This book won't be released until 12/26. Alas!

- Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery by Rose Carrarini. I did not make it out to the Rose Bakery when I was in Paris this spring -- it was on my list, but I didn't make it. The best next thing, I suppose, is this recipe book, which I've only flipped through briefly at the San Francisco Ferry Building (another foodie destination, just not in Paris). The photos are beautifully done -- this is a recipe book you could leave out on your coffee table. And if you know bakers, this would be a great gift for someone who wants to branch out and try something new. It also has many vegetarian and vegan options as well, according to an Amazon reviewer. Here's the Rose Bakery recipe for carrot cake with beautiful pictures at BigCityLittleKitchen.com, in case you want to see for yourself.

- The New Best Recipe by the editors of Cooks Illustrated. How many times have you made an apple pie using different breeds of apples, different spices, different flour? Probably not all that many. But if you're familiar with Cooks Illustrated, you know that they have an amazing test kitchen where they do go through every single variable for every single recipe. I love the Libby label pumpkin pie as much as anyone else, but we've never had a better pumpkin pie than when we started using the recipe from The New Best Recipe. I remember disagreeing with their choice of cheese for the best macaroni and cheese, but that's their (and ultimately my) choice too. An excellent reference for any cook. However, I will say that if you're more of an improviser in the kitchen, it may be a little too precise for your liking.

If you find yourself wandering in the wilds of the bookstore this weekend (because I know I will be), good luck, fellow soldier. Good luck.

images from amazon.com and powells.com

1 comment:

Kati said...

The only thing that saved the bookstore (since it was a hunt to find the book I needed, and then they didn't have the book I wanted for me, bad bookstore!) this week was the post-shopping gingerbread latte. They put a little gingerbread man cookie on it and it was fantastic.

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