Thursday, December 3, 2009
Because my Internet connection pooped out while I was compiling our suggested shopping list, I am sending around an addendum. Please append your own favorites and circulate this. We all need to help each other with recommendations, and we need to keep our favorite authors off the sidewalks, which are chilly this time of year, and crowded by others and their tents.
Regarding Amazon and the links pasted below: I have been told by more than one commentator that few of you will go to an independent bookstore to make your purchase, but I continue to urge you to do so, even if takes a little more time and costs a few pennies more. Why? Because independent bookstores bring you real books that you can pick up and feel, books you weren’t expecting, serendipitous discoveries you wouldn’t discover on line for the simple reason that their authors cannot pay the costs of promoting them on line with retailers such as Amazon, who charge for extras (sure, the basic listing is free to publishers and authors, but any add-ons are expensive, and without them the likelihood of your book being found or talked about is pretty low). Indies are usually mom-and-pop operations, owned by real people in your neighborhood, not distant billionaires. They invest in their communities. They are anchors in a maelstrom of change, some of it great, much of it unfortunate. Indies make a careful selection of books, offering you their expertise. If we don’t give them our business now, they’ll disappear, and when they’re gone we will miss them. Happy and healthy holidays… David
In no particular order:
Italian Rustic, by Elizabeth Minchilli, décor and lifestyle maven based in Rome and Umbria
Here’s an enviable review: "Building La Bella Vita" For anyone who dreams of living in a Tuscan farmhouse, Elizabeth Helman Minchilli's new book, Italian Rustic (Artisan) , holds transformative power. Within its 226 pages lie the secrets of traditional Italian craftsmanship, which can be applied to your own house regardless of where you live. Want to redo your kitchen with a wood-beamed ceiling? There's an entire chapter devoted to the subject. Considering a bathroom with richly textured frescoed walls? There's a resource guide that will help you find the best builder and architect. Or maybe you just want to add an evocative stone wall to the garden. The know-how for that job is here too. It's a comforting realization that all the techniques have been tested and tried by the author herself: together with her Italian-born architect husband, she restored her own country villa in the Umbrian town of Todi. Think of this volume as a practical, beautiful blueprint for creating a home filled with all the right details--terra-cotta tiles, stucco walls, garden pergolas--all'italiana. M. P. --Town & Country Magazine, November 2009.
Ancient Wonders department:
Gateway of the Gods: The Rise and Fall of Babylon, by Anton Gill
Everything you ever wanted to know about Babylon—and there is a great deal to know—brilliantly and concisely recounted by word-magician Anton Gill, with great illustrations.
Here’s the publisher’s bumph: Nebuchadnezzar: military genius, law-giver, architect of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and ruler of marvelous Babylon, city of 200,000 souls girded by 18 kilometres of walls so wide two four-horse chariots were said to be able to pass side-by-side; or 'destroyer of nations', the vilified despoiler of Judea ultimately driven mad by the Lord's vengeance? Two very different portraits exist for Babylon's greatest ruler. Wherein lies the truth? Nebuchadnezzar's reign (c630-562 BC) represents the last and perhaps greatest flowering of a culture that had endured for three millennia.His capital, Babylon, home of the famous Hanging Gardens, was a wonder of the ancient world in itself, but nothing remains today of the city except a scattering of dusty mounds, Nebuchadnezzar's deeds have been obscured by time, and popular history has failed to engage this most fascinating of rulers. Anton Gill's new book charts not only Nebuchadnezzar's rise to power, his hand in the downfall of the Assyrian Empire, his campaigns and his architectural transformation of Babylon, but also explores the deeper history of Fertile Crescent and explains why, for all its apparent majesty, Babylon was to fall to Cyrus the Persian only 13 years after Nebuchadnezzar's death.
More ancient wonders, this time very down to earth:
The Goddess and the Bull, by Michael Balter, science writer extraordinaire (and my office mate), who tells a great story—he really digs down to unearth the dirt on the goddess, no bull… and my apologies for the puns…
A review or three:
"(Balter's) book is foremost about a site that offers unique insights into the origins of our own civilization." -- Ian Tattersall, Curator, American Museum of Natural History
"(Balter) has produced a compelling read, one that achieves the double act of educating and entertaining." -- Science Magazine
"A canny narrative history of a wondrous archaeological site, full of personality and personalities, and ripe with thoughtful conjecture." -- Kirkus Reviews
French Toast, reflections on the land of horizontal pollution and other euphemisms, by the funniest American in Paris, Harriet Welty Rochefort, who is married to one of France’s finest gentlemen, Philippe. This classic is being reissued in paperback.
A snippet from Publishers Weekly (read the rest on line): During the 1970s, Rochefort moved from Shenandoah, Iowa, to Paris, where she met and married her husband, Philippe. Here, she offers her reflections on what it's like to be the wife of a Frenchman and the mother of two French-American children. Although presented with a confidence that comes with long experience, the observations shared (Rochefort's but also those of French and fellow expatriate friends) are hardly illuminating. Rochefort relies on her experiences with French in-laws and friends to conclude that the French, unlike their American counterparts, would rather talk about sex than money, are quarrelsome and require their children to work hard in school.
New York Humor department:
Don’t Make a Scene, a novel… The rib-tickling humor of Valerie Block is a great antidote to everything from swine flu to unemployment, or the holidays with the in-laws (and would also be a good pick-me-up after reading my dark dark thriller, Paris City of Night).
here’s what Publishers Weekly said (strongly): Block (None of Your Business) adds a nearing-40 protagonist to the chick lit formula in her third novel, and the result is an entertaining winner. Diane Kurasik, a basically happy 39-year-old New Yorker interested in more than just men and shopping, runs a successful repertory theater, the Bedford Street Cinema, and has a fabulous rent-controlled apartment in the Village. But she's single, her job is losing its charm, and she's evicted from her apartment. Diane spends exhausting days searching the city for a new home, living out of suitcases in friends' guest rooms and squalid sublets while overseeing a long-awaited theater renovation. A welcome distraction arrives when she meets Vladimir Hurtado Padrón, a sexy Cuban architect. At first she hopes he might signal the end to an interminable series of boring blind dates, but he turns out to be a handful, not to mention married with a 17-year-old son he hasn't seen in 10 years. New Yorkers will cringe at the painfully accurate apartment-hunting scenes, and the novel is peppered with film trivia and instances in which life (usually Diane's) imitates art. Film buffs and readers bored with fluffy love stories will welcome the novel's sly substance. (July)
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Books for Christmas, New Year’s, anytime
A few of our favorite books this year, in random order:
Real Food and Wine, in
Food Wine Rome, by yours truly (shamelessly yours), the Terroir Guide to Rome, with Alison’s photography, and hundreds of food artisans, restaurants, a food glossary and more: www.davidddownie.com where you can buy from independent booksellers or the usual Internet sellers (such as http://www.amazon.com/Food-Wine-Rome-Terrior-Guides/dp/1892145715/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259770953&sr=1-2) and don’t forget, Food Wine Burgundy is coming out next March!
More Real Food and Wine, on the Italian
Food Wine Italian Riviera & Genoa, more of the same, though this time it’s the Terroir Guide to the Italian Riviera, again with Alison’s gorgeous photography, and hundreds of food artisans, restaurants, a food glossary and more: www.davidddownie.com where you can buy from independent booksellers or the usual Internet sellers (such as http://www.amazon.com/Italian-Riviera-Genoa-Terroir-Guides/dp/1892145642/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2)
Real food as in cookbooks:
Paul Wolfort’s latest, Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking, the result of years and years of research and testing, and her incomparable TLC: http://www.amazon.com/Mediterranean-Clay-Pot-Cooking-Traditional/dp/076457633X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259771232&sr=1-1
Thrills and chills:
Paris City of Night, my new thriller, more shameless self-promotion by popular demand (from the dozens of fan-emails I’ve received), www.davidddownie.com where you can order it from independent booksellers or buy on line from a variety of others, or the inevitable http://www.amazon.com/Paris-City-Night-David-Downie/dp/1601110162/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259770820&sr=1-4
Food for Thought Department:
Escaping Plato’s Cave: How America’s Blindness to the rest of the World Threatens Our Survival, by Mort Rosenblum, buy from your local independent or http://www.amazon.com/Escaping-Platos-Cave-Blindness-Threatens/dp/0312364407/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259770470&sr=1-2
Andrew Dalby’s fascinating, illuminating exposé of Wikipedia and brave new world it represents, just out: The World and Wikipedia: How We Are Editing Reality
http://www.amazon.com/World-Wikipedia-How-editing-reality/dp/0956205208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259771290&sr=1-1 and while you’re at it don’t miss Andrew’s pungently witty and informative everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know opus on Cheese, a Global History http://www.amazon.com/Cheese-Global-History-Reaktion-Edible/dp/1861895232/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1259771666&sr=1-1, which happens to be a very handsome little book…