By: Em Perper
We digested Thanksgiving turkey. We Frosty Friday and Small Business Saturday. The countdowns to Hanukkah and Christmas are on. Now, the gift-giving gets serious. In this round of Curious Iguana’s Holiday Gift Guide, we recommend books for folks who love food, science fiends, and historical fiction fanatics.
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Ree Drummond (William Morrow & Company/HarperCollins, $29.99)
My coworker Bonnie recommends this beautiful cookbook “for busy parents and young couples.” A smattering of the smorgasbord within: waffle iron hash browns, marsala mushroom and goat cheese flatbread, and lobster mac and cheese.
- Kitchen Smarts: Questions and Answers to Boost Your Cooking IQ by the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen (America’s Test Kitchen, $19.99)
Do I have to massage my kale? Does refrigerating potato chips keep them fresh? What’s the difference between “chili” powder and “chile” powder? How do you coddle an egg?
- The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty (Amistad Press/HarperCollins, $28.99)
Who owns Southern food? Culinary historian Michael W. Twitty traces his own lineage and travels to Virginia, Louisiana, Georgia and Alabama to explore the power of food to bring estranged communities together.
- A Square Meal: A Culinary History of the Great Depression by Jane Ziegelman and Andrew Coe (Harper Paperbacks/HarperCollins, $15.99)
The Great Depression deconstructed the United States’ “land of plenty” façade. We owe the existence of dietary guidelines and our appreciation of (or obsession with) efficient, convenient food to this era. Readable, informative, and entertaining.
For historical fiction fans:
- Lazaretto by Diane McKinney-Whetstone (HarperCollins, $15.99)
Riveting Civil War era novel set at the country’s first quarantine hospital, focusing on the intersecting stories of Sylvia, a guilt-ridden midwife’s apprentice, and Meda, a black woman raising two white boys.
- The Kites by Romain Gary (New Directions/W.W. Norton, $27.95)
Coming-of-age story with unforgettable characters set in Normandy on the brink of World War II. Farmboy Ludo falls in love with the aristocratic Lila; Ludo sets out on a life-threatening quest when Lila and her family go missing after the Nazis invade.
- The Second Mrs. Hockaday by Susan Rivers (Algonquin Books, $15.95)
Between her husband’s deployment to the front lines of the Civil War and his return two years later, Placidia Hockaday committed an unthinkable crime. Told via diary entries, letters, and inquest documents.
- Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien (W.W. Norton, $16.95)
Shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker Prize, set in 19th century totalitarian China. Three musicians—composer Sparrow, violinist Zhuli, and pianist Kai—struggle to survive and make beauty under Mao’s reign.
For science-minded friends:
- Nature Love Medicine: Essays on Wilderness and Wellness ed. Thomas Lowe Fleischner (Torrey House Press/IPS, $18.95)
The Amazon rainforest, the Puget Sound, the Adelaide Botanic Gardens, and Guajaray, Mexico are but a fraction of the natural places praised, pondered, and explored in this anthology. Features poetry and prose.
- Endurance: A Year in Space, a Lifetime of Discovery by Scott Kelly (Knopf/PRH, $29.95)
Thrilling, hilarious, heart-stopping, beautiful, and unexpected: Life aboard the International Space Station is all this and more for astronaut and natural storyteller Scott Kelly.
- A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes by Adam Rutherford (Experiment/Workman Publishing, $25.95)
An enthralling work of popular science writing in which broadcaster and Ph.D. Adam Rutherford debunks what our genes can and can’t predict about ourselves and our species, from royalty to redheads.
- Why?: What Makes Us Curious by Mario Livio (Simon & Schuster, $26)
Does curiosity lead to genius? Yes and no. Astrophysicist Mario Livio examines the lives of Renaissance man Leonardo da Vinci and theoretical physicist Richard Feynman and interviews people who’ve blended science and humanities with fascinating results.