The Avid Reader July 2008
In This Issue:

» Best Overall Cookbooks

» Famous Chefs

» Shelf Talk

» June's Most Expensive Books Sold

» Contests


If you have comments about this issue of the Avid Reader, please send us your feedback.

All the recommended snacking from last month's Avid Reader has me hungry - maybe I'll cook up something scrumptious.

My first kitchen memory is of begging my trusted mother for a chunk of chocolate, not noticing how quickly she acquiesced, and being crestfallen when I ended up with a mouthful of bitter, unsweetened disappointment.

In the background of that memory I can see my mother's well-loved copy of The Joy of Cooking, always on the counter, then above my eye-level.

It has seen better years, but is still holding on, a red ribbon marking the recipe page for the pancakes my mother made on weekends and other favorites- all with notes scrawled in the margins and the spills of the spoils decorating the pages.

By now the cookbook shelf has expanded and changed, but the basics -the dogeared, beloved staples - remain.

Cookbooks provide inspiration, instruction and sometimes, even a really good read. From meats to sweets, here are the best of the bunch to fill your home with good sounds and smells.

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Cream of the Crop: Best Overall Cookbooks

Whether a budding cook or a seasoned veteran, if you're serious about food, here are some cookbooks you'll want on hand.
The Joy of Cooking by Irma S. Rombauer

The Joy of Cooking - 75th Anniversary Edition
by Irma S. Rombauer

In 1931, a housewife in Missouri named Irma Rombauer, who was facing poverty and troubling times, first self-published her collection of recipes and cooking tips, then titled The Joy of Cooking: A Compilation of Reliable Recipes with a Casual Culinary Chat. In 2006, 75 years and numerous editions later, The Joy of Cooking was one of the most published, sold, and relied-upon cookbooks in North America, and the 75th Anniversary Edition was released. Irma Rombauer died in 1962, and over the years the format, style and voice of The Joy of Cooking changed with each release, but its well-loved and reliable reputation continued.

In this most recent edition, much of the original feel was restored, including 4500 recipes (many of which are very simple), excellent reference and instruction, a section of classic recipes from older editions, and a section about nutrition.
The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen

The New Moosewood Cookbook
by Mollie Katzen

Moosewood cookbooks are immensely popular, and with good reason. In 1977, a time when vegetarianism was seen as a crazed hippie fad, the Moosewood collective, who are responsible for the famed vegetarian Moosewood Restaurant (in Ithaca, NY, since 1973) published the first of their now famous cookbooks, and brought with it exciting, varied, flavorful and nutritionally sound recipes.

Beautifully illustrated and simply explained, the Moosewood cookbooks have been winning over vegetarians and omnivores alike for 35 years. This is the most recent in the collection, but if you love to cook and want to cook healthfully, any and all of the Moosewood family are great bets to keep in your kitchen. I recommend the Curried Squash and Mushroom Soup.
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

The River Cottage Meat Book
by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Growth hormones, antibiotics, depleted rainforest, treatment of livestock and more - the word 'meat' has a heavy political burden to carry these days. In The River Cottage Meat Book, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall reminds us what those back teeth are for; long before we mass-produced and mucked it up, meat was a staple in the vast majority of diets, and can be healthy, sustainable, delicious.

Rustic and simple, Meat Book goes back to basics with focus on understanding how to choose the best meat and prepare it in skilled, mouthwatering, delectable ways.

If nothing says 'summer' to you like the smell of a steak on a grill, you'll love The River Cottage Meat Book.
How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman

How to Cook Everything: Simple Recipes for Great Food
by Mark Bittman

Mark Bittman believes that everyone not only can cook, but should. Realizing cooking is daunting for many, he wanted to take the guesswork out of it, and put the fun back in. How to Cook Everything has something for everyone, from basic tips and clear directions to tried-and-true tricks, even if you know your way around the oven already.

Dropping all the mystique and pretense so often found in the culinary world, How to Cook Everything provides what a cookbook arguably should: a variety of high quality, well-explained, accessible recipes to tantalize and tempt. And with over 1500 of those recipes to choose from, this cookbook is a must-have staple for your kitchen.
From Famous Foodies
Bobby Flay's Grill It!
by Bobby Flay

With seven cooking/food shows, five restaurants, and an education from the French Culinary Institute under his belt, Bobby Flay certainly knows food, and his specialty is the art of grilling. Who among us has not gazed in frustrated disappointed at a chicken breast that's raw on the inside, and charcoal on the outside, or howled in dismay at a ruined, expensive steak?

From rubs to marinades, skewers to foil, chops to flanks, Grill It! is a barbecue baron's grillside dream. Outside cooking has different challenges, rules and tricks than its kitchen counterpart, and Flay's simple language, innovative and flavorful ideas and creativity (a BBQ book with a chapter on fruit makes for some surprisingly delicious desserts!) make Grill It! a backyard chef's best bet.
Bobby Flay's Grill It! by Bobby Flay

Pure Food: How to Shop, Cook and Have Fun in Your Kitchen Every Day
by Christine Cushing

Christine Cushing's latest book Pure Food: How to shop, Cook and Have Fun in Your Kitchen Every Day takes the aspiring chef right from the supermarket shelves through the preparation of delicious meals. Cushing provides her own flavor and ideas for buying locally and eating fresh, healthy food.

Cushing encourages the use of unique produce, and the diversification of the reader's produce consumption away from just "peas and carrots". To ease any potential hesitation, she includes pictures, descriptions and purchasing tips for various types of produce such as gai-lan, rapini and kumquats. Her shopping tips also expand to include seafood, meat and poultry.

As useful for reference as it is for recipes, Pure Food is not to be missed.
Pure Food by Christine Cushing

Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food
by Gordon Ramsay

If you've ever watched his reality television show, Hell's Kitchen, you know Gordon Ramsay has a short fuse and can cuss like a sailor. The chefs he trains are put through rigorous, demanding and often demeaning tests, belittled, abused and tongue-lashed to within an inch of their frying pans. But for all the possible criticism of Ramsay's methods, he is an exceptional chef, and commands respect from foodies worldwide. He has won several prestigious awards and honors in the UK, and in September 2006, was even named most influential person in UK hospitality on Caterer and Hotelkeeper magazine's annual Caterersearch 100 list.

In Fast Food, Ramsay takes into account that not everyone has the resources, time, money and skill to create gourmet masterpieces every night, but he maintains it's no excuse to not eat well - he provides ample knowledge and guidance to make healthy, satisfying meals with the average person's money and time.
Gordon Ramsay's Fast Food by Gordon Ramsay

Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast
by Nigella Lawson

If we have Passion for Books at AbeBooks, Nigella Lawson has passion for food. She gets excited about cuisine, taking it beyond sustenance to the senses, tasting as she goes and obviously loving every second of the creation. To her, cooking is all about the id, the pleasure, the enjoyment of nourishing ourselves with good tastes, good smells, good food.

Similar to Ramsay's Fast Food, this latest from Lawson also focuses on making her concoctions more accessible, more universal, to get as many people as possible eating well, learning, experimenting, and elbow-deep in deliciousness. Dive in, and wait for your tastebuds to thank you.
Nigella Express by Nigella Lawson

Want more great cookbooks?

Check out our Cooking Feature page! It has interviews, lists, reviews, recommended books, award-winners and more!
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Shelf Talk: Reference to Recipe - A Closer Look at CookBooks
by Richard Davies - PR Manager; Resident Brit.

In my kitchen, there are 21 cookery books on a bookshelf within splattering distance of the cooker. I thought there would be a dozen at most and I was rather surprised to count so many. My balti cookbook 100 Best Balti Curries by Diane Lowe and Mike Davidson is by far the dirtiest with more disgusting brown and yellow stains than recipes. If you scraped off the food particles from its pages, there would be enough for a lamb dansak and perhaps a starter too.

Celebrity chefs have written some of my cookbooks and some are penned by gorgeous 'stove bunnies' while others are written by folks I have never heard of. They are a real mixture. Delia Smith's Complete Cookery Course is the bedrock of our cookbook shelf - no finer example of English middle class culture exists than Delia Smith. Users of this book simply call it Delia - they say 'I'll look in Delia' or 'Let's see how Delia would do it.' When we moved to Canada from the UK, Delia came with us - although immigration doesn't know, so don't tell.

Better Homes and Gardens New Baking Book is our spiritual guide to cakes and sweet things - and I have absolutely no idea where this spiral-bound book came from. It must have been a gift. The Everyday Vegan by Dreena Burton is our recommended read for vegan stuff. We are not vegetarians, vegans or even tree-hugging hippies, but this is an excellent book. We also have Vive Le Vegan by the same author, but have never opened it.

Earlier this year, she-who-must-be-obeyed bought Deceptively Delicious by Jessica Seinfeld, and I was deeply scornful of the book and its stylistic design. After all, Jessica was just the wife of a famous comedian and not even a proper cook. However, her muffin recipe won me over and now I think it's a pretty good cookbook for people with young families.

We also have Gordon Ramsay Makes It Easy, Jamie's Dinners by Jamie Oliver and How To Eat by Nigella Lawson, but frankly they are all rubbish.

As we have a young family, our most influential cookbook of the past six years has been Annabel Karmel's. Annabel is the queen of cooking for babies but many people have not heard of her. If you have a bun in the oven then check out her books.

The biggest and heaviest cookbook on our shelf is Christopher Idone's Glorious American Food. It's a 1985 first edition in excellent condition and I bought it for $3 at a secondhand book sale earlier this year. I have no intention of ever using it for recipes - I just like to look at the beautiful photography of regional cooking around the States. I suspect I am not alone in enjoying food porn - this one is more coffee table than kitchen table.

In truth, I have never read any of these cookery books from start to finish. Does anyone? Although I like cookbooks, I don't love them - they are no more than reference books.

However, I do love books that provide an insight into the world of professional kitchens. Anthony Bourdain started it all with Kitchen Confidential - a graphic account of the crimes and misdemeanors committed by chefs. Bourdain, a highly experienced chef himself, is an excellent writer and is withering about the Jamie Olivers of this world. The Nasty Bits is an excellent collection of Bourdain's essays - it's also worth a look.

Last Christmas, I was thrilled to unwrap Heat by Bill Buford. A writer and editor at The New Yorker magazine, Buford quit his journalism job to become a chef in the famed Babbo Restaurant in New York. He recounts his training in painful detail - his painful burns, his painful humiliations, and his painful mistakes. He travels to England to meet Marco Pierre White - the maddest, baddest and craziest of all the mad, bad and crazy chefs. Buford also goes to Italy to work with a mad, bad and crazy butcher, who had attained superstar status for what he could do with a knife.

I like to cook, but thanks to the likes of Buford and Bourdain I never want to work in a restaurant kitchen. I can only liken it to working on a daily newspaper - never ending pressure and never ending deadlines with success dependent on a team effort.

Tell us about your favorite cookbook and your contribution could be featured on AbeBooks (don't forget to tell us your name and where you're from)!
The Cookbook Shelf of Richard Davies
Just Released Books! Learn More

Life with Madonna

Life with MadonnaLife With My Sister Madonna, the most recent biography on the Material Girl, was released by her brother Christopher Ciccone only weeks before the singer's 50th birthday (August 16th).
Find Life With My Sister Madonna. And that's far from the first time Madonna has been in the book world's limelight: the superstar has more than her share of published exploits, as you can see.

Review of Larry McMurtry's Books: A Memoir

Books: A MemoirWith so much reading, writing and selling of books throughout the years, it's no surprise that Larry McMurtry has released a volume about his life and titled it Books: A Memoir, dedicated to his memories, milestones and experiences with every aspect of the written word along the way. AbeBooks PR Manager Richard Davies has read it already and offered his thoughts on this book about books.

Read the whole review

Pump and Circumstance - Gas Stations in Literature

Gas StationsBy the time you reach the end of this article gas prices will probably have increased another five cents. Filling up is getting us down. However, the humble gas station has been a focal point of American culture for more than 75 years and not just for drivers - novelists and screenplay writers have been pumping gasoline for years.

Fill 'er up

Bestsellers for June
  1. Big Russ and Me
    Tim Russert
  2. Wisdom of Our Fathers
    Tim Russert
  3. Change Your Brain, Change Your Life
    Daniel Amen
  4. Dreams of My Father
    Barack Obama
  5. The Pillars Of The Earth
    Ken Follett
Most Expensive Cookbooks Sold on AbeBooks

  1. A Guide to Modern Cookery
    Escoffier - $5,124
  2. The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy
    Mrs. Hannah Glasse - $2,875
  3. Le Viandier de Taillevent
    Guilaume Tirel - $1,950
  4. La Cuisiniere Bourgeoise
    Menon - $1,751
  5. The Complete Housewife
    Eliza Smith - $1,400
See the whole list

Most Expensive Books Sold in June
  1. An Universal History from the Earliest Account of Time to the Present
  2. Lord of the Flies
    William Golding - $9,260
  3. Souvenirs de la Suisse - 100 vues le plus remarquable
  4. The Etched Work of Frank Brangwyn
    Frank Newbolt - $4,750
  5. Poems with lithographs
    Frank O'Hara and Willem De Koonin - $4,500
See the whole list
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Current AbeBooks Contests

Win a Bundle of Books

Our Bundle of Books Contest continues and as an Avid Reader subscriber, you are already entered. This month's bundle features must-have cookbooks. Between turning pages and tasting your creations, you won't stop licking your fingers!

See July's Bundle of Books

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Make room on your bookshelf for these three new books, When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris, Beijing Coma by Ma Jian and The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston.

Visit Our Summer Reading Room and Enter to Win
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July's featured best buy is When You Are Engulfed in Flames, the latest from David Sedaris. Sedaris is so funny that he's developed a hardcore, devoted fanbase who eagerly await his words. This latest release is as funny and insightful as ever, and makes light of everything from neuroses, to quitting smoking, and even death.

Brand new copies of the hardcover are available at tremendous savings! Visit our Best Buys page.

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Let us know what's on your mind
Notes from Avid Readers
Thank you so much to everyone (and there were a lot of you!) who wrote to share experiences and opinions about abominable or excellent book to film adaptations. It's clear our readers feel strongly about the books they love. Here are some of the comments we received (I now have some titles to rent - and some to avoid at all costs!).

One of my most enjoyable book-film experiences involved reading Edith Wharton's "Age of Innocence" in three days, and renting the film (1993, Daniel Day-Lewis, Michelle Pfeiffer) on the evening of the third day.
—Darby C.

After reading through your lists of books that were made into movies, I could not believe that you left out C.S. Forester! The African Queen is an incredible movie, but the book is a revelation; the same and, yet, subtly different with no happy ending. And then we come to Horatio Hornblower. I discovered the series because the old Gregory Peck movie is one of my father's favorites but consider them way superior. Reading the series truly brings you back to early 19th century England in a way the movie never does. Since C.S. Forester is still in print after over 70 years, I'm obviously not the only who feels this way.

What about that classic of all time Moby Dick? The book is a must read and hard to put down; the John Houston film is a classic film drama with real (not computer generated) and convincing special effects. But while story lines are similar the detail and the character of the plots are quite different. Each works very well in its own medium and is hard to surpass. Sadly they had to do a remake which is neither Melville nor Houston and comes a very poor third. —Richard

I enjoyed your article! I too love to read and also really like to watch movies - I am always SO disappointed when they take a good book and make horrible changes in the movie version! Two that I thought were quite good are:"Gone With The Wind" b/c it's a great story but many people won't attempt to read it, (900+ pages) and "Lonesome Dove", another good story with lots of well- written characters to get to know, and the movie followed the book quite closely. —Dee

"Forrest Gump": Tom Hanks made the movie, but the book (by Winston Groom) is almost unreadable. —Sharon

(editor's note: Three of you mentioned the movie "Forrest Gump" being superior to the book).
The only time I have seen a film that I liked as much as the book was Alice Walker's "The Color Purple". The book made me cry, and the film emotionally engages you as much as the book.

James Clavell's "Tai Pan" was an excellent novel, albeit a bit of a slow start. The movie adaptation, however, was terrible. This big novel needed mini-series treatment like "Shogun". On the other hand, Clavell's "King Rat" was both an excellent novel AND an excellent movie.

I loved both the book and the movie "Out of Africa". To me it was extremely romantic. The cast of the film made the book come to life. I would love more films as good as this one, and I reread the book occasionally.

After seeing "Away from Her", I looked up Alice Munro's story on which it was based. It made me realize what a genius young Sarah Polley is; the movie far outshines the story.

To my mind the most egregious travesty of book into movie is "Mary Poppins" that dreadful, treacly, inexcusable interpretation of the real Mary Poppins, a force to be reckoned with and a formidable delight. —Marilyn

I must take this opportunity to whine and complain about "City of Joy" by Dominique Lapierre. The book was a wonder, has haunted me for years and years. So they then make such an insipid movie - oh my gosh - what a loser. It's criminal!

Hi, great topic for a series of articles. How about George Orwell's "1984"? I thought the British cinematic rendering was amazingly true to the book. I think the movie was able to capture the tone of the book so well. Granted, as you say, it's impossible to include all the details and nuance of a novel in a movie, but they were very successful. Thanks.


I think the worst film adaptation of a novel ever has to be "Lord of the Flies" by William Golding. The book, creepy as it is, is packed full of social and political commentary and is actually quite an eye-opener. The film focuses entirely on the surface story of the book, losing all the meaning Golding was trying to portray.
"Good books don't give up all their secrets at once."   - STEPHEN KING

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