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Delicious! a novel, by Ruth Reichl

Delicious! a novel, by Ruth Reichl

Ruth Reichl is better known for memoirs and cookbooks, but this is her first novel.  Of course, food plays an important role here!  Main character Billie Breslin has just moved to New York and landed a job at food magazine Delicious!  She's a talented cook herself, but an experience from her past makes Billie extremely reluctant to let anyone see this side of her or get to know the details of her life.  However, she forges several new friendships at the magazine, and at Fontanari's, a famous Italian food shop where she helps out on the weekends.

The magazine is housed in a historic mansion, and staff are dismayed when the owner decides to shut down the operation and sell the place.  Billie alone is kept on temporarily to reply to correspondence from readers.  One day while exploring the mansion's library that has been locked for years, she stumbles on a secret room, full of old letters and files.  She finds a cache of letters from a young girl, Lulu Swan, who wrote regularly to James Beard during the second world war.  Something about this touching and revealing correspondence inspires Billie to start a new quest, to find out what happened to Lulu, and to start writing new chapters for her own life.  

Number of Pages: 
380

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

I feel like I am late to the Knisley party! I couldn't put this book down. Luckily, I didn't have to because I had a marvelous block of time waiting for my car to be fixed in which to read this delightful book. But boy was I hungry afterwards! Lucy Knisley writes and illustrates this graphic memoir about her life in food. It is largely dedicated to her mother and her mother's influence. Her mother worked at Dean & Deluca back in the day, in Manhattan in the 70s. She catered, she farmed, she cooked always. Lucy grew up surrounded by chefs, grocers and farmers market folk. Each chapter takes you through a different period in her life. The chapter on Mexico is hilarious. And includes a recipe for huevos rancheros. Yum! Her art is illustrative of my favorite type of graphic novel, though I am hard pressed to say why! The colors, the clean lines? Whatever she does, she does well. I'm looking forward to reading more of her works, she just came out with a new one this year.

Number of Pages: 
173

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes That Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

When Gourmet magazine folded in 2009, Ruth Reichl has taken off-guard and thrown into a tailspin of self-doubt. As she sank into a depression, she found that, as always, food and cooking were her solace. Better yet, rather than the glamorous life of fine dining she had become accustomed to over the decades as one of the world's premiere food critics, she found herself turning to her own kitchen, revisiting old recipes and finding inspiration for new ones.

My Kitchen Year follows Reichl through the seasons, largely at her home in upstate New York, as she celebrates seasonal, sustainable fare and works through depression and injury through her love of cooking. As opposed to her other fabulous memoirs (Tender at the Bone, Comfort Me with Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires), this is more cookbook with memoir sprinkled throughout, but as always, Reichl suffuses her reflections and recipe instructions with poetry and exuberance. The recipes hold up well, too. So far, I've been able to try her Food Cart Chicken Curry recipe with great success--it was simple and delicious (and if I can do it, you, dear reader, most certainly can). As autumn settles in, this is the perfect book to pick up to get you in the mood for the comfort of good food and the delight in the act of cooking.

Number of Pages: 
327

The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

The $64 Tomato by William Alexander

This is a fun memoir about one man's obsession with his very large vegetable garden.  From his battles with groundhogs and bugs to the joys of feeding his family truly fresh fruit and vegetables, Alexander tells tales that any home gardener can relate to and will enjoy.  There are some interesting bits of information and history thrown in as well to inform his personal experiences.  Overall, a quick and good read.

Number of Pages: 
270

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain

Veteran chef (and all-around Jack of all trades) Anthony Bourdain delivers in his exposé on life in the restaurant business. He reveals lots of the down and dirty secrets of which food to avoid and when, the drugs, the promiscuity, and the blood, sweat, and tears (all literally) that go into making the food you eat when you're out on the town. These are anecdotes filled with raw humor and grit. He's not afraid to knock others as well as himself, but he also tells you who and what is right in the business. He's brash and may not be for the faint of heart, but if you're familiar with his Travel Channel shows No Reservations and The Layover, he won't let you down. I listened to Kitchen Confidential as a downloadable audiobook through Overdrive, which is narrated by Bourdain himself, and he was hands down one of the best narrators I've had the pleasure to listen to. An added bonus for a great book for those audiophiles out there!

Number of Pages: 
312

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

After Anna is hurt in an accident in the chocolate factory where she works, she befriends her former French teacher while in the hospital. The ailing woman, Claire, sets up the opportunity for Anna to move to Paris and work in a small chocolate shop with an old acquaintance. Though Claire will not give Anna any more information into her own past in Paris, she pushes Anna to work through her own rough patch and restart in the new city.

The novel follows not only Anna's story as she finds her way around Paris in the present day, but also a flashback with Claire, and her time in Paris in the 1970s. The stories overlap through the scenery and the man who runs the chocolate shop.

Number of Pages: 
374

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan

After losing a job and a boyfriend in the same day, Issy does the only thing left she knows: she bakes. Having grown up in her grandfather's bakery, when job opportunities in her former field seem few and uninteresting at best, she decides top open her own. Running in blind with one other employee, Issy begins her struggle to start a small business. Along the way, Issy creates a new family for herself, and they learn to protect their new home.

Number of Pages: 
410

Eat & run : my unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

Eat & run : my unlikely journey to ultramarathon greatness by Scott Jurek with Steve Friedman

Scott Jurek is well known in the community of ultrarunners and has won many races and set many records.  This was an interesting history of his life and look at many of the key races he has run and won.  He also talked quite a bit about his vegan diet and his belief that it has made him a better runner.  The best parts of the book were when he talked about the mental challenge of running huge distances and how he pushes himself.  His play-by-plays of famous races were fascinating to read.  However, I felt like he glossed over the low points in his life - races he dropped out of, injuries, and the failure of his marriage were all mentioned but more in passing than in detail.  I felt like his story would have been a lot richer if he delved further into the hard times in his life.

Number of Pages: 
260

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Growing up with foodies and chefs as parents and relatives, you're bound to have some delicious stories to tell. Lucy Knisley recounts strong memories triggered by that fabulous sense of taste, mostly fond ones even if the results were less than palatable. Knisley is an excellent graphic artist, and each story pops from the page. To make it even better, she provides a fully illustrated recipe of a related dish at the end of each chapter, making me wish every cookbook was as fun to read as this. Highly recommended--this would also make a good crossover book for teens as well.

Number of Pages: 
173

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joanne Fluke

In her first Hannah Swensen mystery, Joanne Fluke tells of Hannah, a baker and coffee shop owner, who falls into the position of detective after finding a dead body. Curious, she joins in to help her police officer brother-in-law solve the case. Using her friendly manner as well as her baked goods to get the public to talk to her, Hannah pieces together the mystery. This lighthearted mystery is sprinkled with recipes and ridiculous family relationships. I enjoyed the story as well as the main character herself. It had a dead body count over one, which I always find much more exciting in murder mysteries. Though it wasn't my favorite mystery ever, the novel was likable, went quickly and the answer to the mystery was a surprise to me as well.

Number of Pages: 
312